The Office of Desire, by Martha Moody

So why don’t we get more books set in the workplace? Granted, most offices have fewer opportunities for drama than a police station or a hospital, but in the end the same things drive the story: the interactions between a group of people within their environment.

Anyone who has worked in an office knows that there is plenty of material for both drama and comedy. In fact, during a period when I worked in a particularly stressful environment, we joked about what a great sitcom our work lives would make. Each new, absurdly counter-productive move by the management would send us racing to the back parking lot to compare notes on how that particular sitcom episode would develop. Later, when the British series about office life came out, I figured they must have gotten the idea from us.

Here we have a small doctors' office, staffed by two doctors and three employees. Caroline is the receptionist and tells much of the story, alternating with one of the doctors, Hap Markowitz. The other two employees are Alice, the nurse, and Brice, who handles the financials. Caroline calls them “the ABCs”. The other doctor is the recently divorced Will Strub. In the course of the story, the friendships between these five characters develop and shift in unexpected directions. They clearly care for each other, even as they annoy one another.

The book is quite funny, in a dark way. Brice’s love of old movies, Alice’s reinventions of herself, Will’s discovery of religion all lard the storylines with humor. Some of the storylines are very dark indeed, yet the prose is compulsively readable.

At first, I thought this was going to be a chick lit book, something light, in the “Sex and the City” vein perhaps. But it turns out to be much more serious than that and becomes a very interesting exploration of friendship, what we owe to our friends—our work friends, our personal friends—and where we draw the line between our responsibility to them and our responsibility to ourselves. I would love to find more books like this one.

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