Reviewed by Poppy Johnson

The Receptionist is the story of a woman who started working at The New Yorker in 1957. She began her career there and assumed she would work her way up to being one of the magazine’s premier writers – but this never happened. This true to life account is one of a failed mission to succeed in the patriarchal society of a popular literary magazine. After 27 years, Janet Groth was in the same place, and the reader’s heart will break reading about her struggles to become more than what she was at the organization. She was privileged to meet many famous poets and playwrights of the time, but she never achieved the same fame herself, which was a pity because she was and is very bright.

For over two decades, Groth worked her fingers to the bone at The New Yorker. She was neither recognized nor praised for any of her efforts. The glass ceiling was to blame, and she was unable to get away from the fact that most women during that time did not advance beyond the clerical stages. Groth had a series of almost relationships with some quite famous men, but none of their fame and notoriety followed her in life after the love affairs ended.

Groth did have some measure of success in the art department at the magazine early in her career. Unfortunately, she admits that this assignment proved to be a detrimental force later in her life. She met people who proposed to love her but who later left her feeling lost and on the verge of ending it all. This is also a pity because she was actually beautiful inside and out and would have been a “catch” for many men along the way.

The Receptionist is essentially an account of the author’s series of semi-serious loves and affairs. I kept looking for more information about her life at The New Yorker, until I realized that her life was a life that included being with, loving and leaving and interacting with various characters and personalities at the magazine. Her life was the magazine, period and the end. I could forgive the name dropping of celebrities for this reason; she did what she could and hoped it’d be enough.

I’d recommend this book to anyone starting out in a new job after graduating from college. It is a way to look at your life and decide what your course or fate will or will not look like after almost three decades of dedicated and committed performance with one employer.

Rating: ★★★★★ 

After a decade of working in several NYC law departments and teaching, Poppy decided she enjoyed writing full-time. She currently works as a freelance writing consultant, and lives with her husband and sons on the East Coast.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Algonquin Books. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.