I’ve been struggling to form a definitive opinion on American Female by Emily Carpenter. I don’t review self-published books like this very often, but Carpenter sent me a lovely, personal email asking me to consider reviewing it awhile back. She then included a cute little thank you card with the actual book, which is why I feel so rude posting my review so many months after this book was sent to me. Apologies Emily! I should have gotten to this sooner.
Carpenter’s pitch for this book was very professional, so I could tell that at the very least, her writing would be good. And unlike so many self-published authors out there who send me form letters ( I don’t respond to those emails, fyi), it was obvious she understood what a privilege it is to get a book reviewed. Her pitch, and subsequently her book was extremely polished and professional. So far, so good!
Based on our early correspondence, I wasn’t at all surprised to discover that in this memoir (?), Carpenter turns out to be an extremely hard working young woman. Unfortunately, she is taken advantage of by her horrible boss Rune. Rune is, without a doubt, the worst villain I have read about in years. But back to Carpenter; this desire to work hard and overcome obstacles is what makes her story so interesting; she is swept up into a life of international travel and adventure when she takes a position for a camera bag company called Click!, but unfortunately finds herself working for a terrible, ego-centric, slave driver of a man.
Basically American Female is the story of Emily Carpenter’s life over two years, beginning with her getting this job, and then ending with her leaving the job and pursuing other passions. The majority of the book is taken up with stories of her time at Click!, which are FASCINATING. I always knew that jobs like this existed in the world, but reading about it in such great detail was fabulous, and by far my favourite part about this bok. Carpenter’s writing is laid-back and direct, so her storytelling was easy to follow and well paced. I found the book lost it’s momentum once she quit her job though. The exciting adventures seemed to be behind her, and she lost me in overwrought stories of a long distance love affair. If Carpenter had finished the book right after she quit her job I think it would have been a lot stronger, which brings me back to my difficulty with forming a a definitive opinion on American Female. Carpenter mentions in an online video that she shopped this book to over 100 publishers and received all rejections, so she simply published it herself. But the work of a few good edits (substantive, and copy editing) can never be overlooked. I believe most editors working within a publishing house would have cut the the last 50 pages of the story because they were aimless and unnecessary.
I’ll admit I’m also a bit confused about the basis of this book-is it true? She mentions that she changes a few names to protect identities, but then the back over of the book states “The Next Great American Novel”, and as all book lovers know, the term ‘novel’ implies fiction-so is this book fiction? I feel foolish admitting that I couldn’t determine whether this was based in fact or not, but I’m dying to know if it’s real!
So there you have it, American Female is a worthwhile read. It does have major flaws, but I don’t believe it should deter you from picking it up. The story is engrossing, regardless of whether its fact or fiction.