By day, I work for a Fortune 500 company in a very good career that belies my English major tendencies. By night, I cling to those English major tendencies and write book reviews in a newspaper industry that is dying a slow and painful death. These seemingly disparate notions of myself served as the perfect background for the engagement and enjoyment of Jillian Medoff’s novel “This Could Hurt.”
“This Could Hurt” is set in New York City immediately after the financial crisis of 2008 when the bubble burst and doused stock options and 401ks throughout corporate America and pink slips rained down from skyscrapers like confetti on a Macy’s parade. It was not pretty then and, as noted in Medoff’s title, it hurt a lot of people and industries, and many still bear the scars.
The worst of the worst jobs during the financial crisis had to be working in human resources and those are the people who populate “This Could Hurt.” Every quarter, seemingly, came another corporate missive telling HR to cut staff by 25 percent and sometimes that 25 percent had to be cut from HR—their friends and colleagues. Rosa Guerrero takes special pride at Ellery (the fictitious company where she and her colleagues work) in fending off those corporate missives and saving the jobs and lives of the people who work for her. Rosa’s in her 60s with no kids so the company is her life and her co-workers are her family. Unfortunately for Rosa, some of her co-workers don’t necessarily feel the same way and are just going through the motions without fully realizing or caring that their jobs are in peril.
“These kids demanded work/life balance, fancy titles and six-figure salaries…and if they didn’t get what they wanted the minute they asked, they put down their tools and walked off the job. These kids didn’t realize that a career was a living, breathing entity. It required forethought and care, especially when first taking root.”
Medoff delves into the working and personal lives of those who work for Rosa and creates layered characters rather than clichés (although on occasion her description of female anatomy, or how men perceive it, could use more nuance and layering). The characters in “This Could Hurt” have depth so when bad things inevitably befall them, it elicits pangs of sympathy and, in some cases, derision from the reader.
“This Could Hurt” is a very enjoyable read and Medoff moves between the characters and their stories seamlessly. If there is a silver lining within the financial crisis, “This Could Hurt” might be it.