I had just returned from New York when I started reading “The Subway Girls.” Besides recognizing many of the iconic sites realistically described in the novel, it immediately reminded me of how far my generation has come in the workplace versus my mother’s generation.
As it says on the book cover, “The Subway Girls,” is about “two strong women, a generation apart, who find themselves up against the same eternal struggle to find an impossible balance between love, happiness and ambition.” In other words, they, too, search for the work-life balance we all struggle to achieve.
But for me, the story was very personal. As with all good books, the reader – me – inserted herself in the story. It wasn’t too difficult in this case. You might say that the main character, Charlotte, who could only hope to become a typist in her day, represents my mother, a bookkeeper. She even went to Hunter College, like Charlotte.
Meanwhile, the character, Olivia, an ad rep, is similar to me, the journalist/editor. My mom and I are both native New Yorkers, so the comparisons are uncanny and made the novel very relatable to me. I’m sure it would be for women of either era.
Despite the generational divide, the parallels between Charlotte and Olivia are as clear as those between me and my mom. We think we are so different, but we aren’t. In essence, some things never change. We still struggle to break through the glass ceiling in many arenas and the #MeToo movement proves that it’s still difficult to be a woman in any generation.
Susie Orman Schnall presents “The Subway Girls” at the Book Festival 12 p.m. Nov. 14.