Help Wanted: A Novel (Hardcover)

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Help Wanted: A Novel By Adelle Waldman Cover Image

Help Wanted: A Novel (Hardcover)


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Staff Reviews

Help Wanted follows the fictional lives of a logistics team working for a big box superstore. I know that sounds terribly boring, but this would be a fantastic read for anyone who has ever worked in retail or customer service. The interpersonal dynamics of ordinary people doing ordinary things is what makes this novel something special.

— Sydney

A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice • One of New York Magazine's "23 Books We Can’t Wait to Read in 2024" • One of VOGUE’s Best Books of the Year So Far • One of ELLE’s Best (and Most Anticipated) Fiction Books of 2024 • One of Lit Hub’s Most Anticipated Books of 2024 • One of Kirkus’s Most Anticipated Books of 2024 • One of Lilith Magazine’s “21 Books We Want to Read in 2024”

From the best-selling author of The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. comes a funny, eye-opening tale of work in contemporary America.

Every day at 3:55 a.m., members of Team Movement clock in for their shift at big-box store Town Square in a small upstate New York town. Under the eyes of a self-absorbed and barely competent boss, they empty the day’s truck of merchandise, stock the shelves, and scatter before the store opens and customers arrive. Their lives follow a familiar if grueling routine, but their real problem is that Town Square doesn’t schedule them for enough hours—most of them are barely getting by, even while working second or third jobs. When store manager Big Will announces he is leaving, the members of Movement spot an opportunity. If they play their cards right, one of them just might land a management job, with all the stability and possibility for advancement that that implies. The members of Team Movement—including a comedy-obsessed oddball who acts half his age, a young woman clinging on to her “cool kid” status from high school, and a college football hopeful trying to find a new path—band together to set a just-so-crazy-it-might-work plot in motion.

Adelle Waldman’s debut novel was a breakout sensation, lauded by the Los Angeles Times as an “exacting character study” with “excellent and witty prose” and described as “incisive and very funny” by the Economist and “brilliant” by both NPR’s Fresh Air and the Washington Post. In her long-awaited follow-up, Waldman brings her unparalleled wit and astute social observation to the world of modern, low-wage work. A humane and darkly comic workplace caper that shines a light on the odds low-wage workers are up against in today’s economy, Help Wanted is a funny, moving tale of ordinary people trying to make a living.

Adelle Waldman is the best-selling author of The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P., which was named a best book of the year by The New Yorker, Economist, NPR, Elle, and many others. Her writing has appeared in The New Yorker, New York Times, and Wall Street Journal, among other publications. She lives in New York State.
Product Details ISBN: 9781324020448
ISBN-10: 132402044X
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
Publication Date: March 5th, 2024
Pages: 288
Language: English
Poignant, funny, stealthily ambitious.…I doubt there are many authors who could write a literary critique of neoliberalism as breezy and almost sitcom-like as Help Wanted.

— Michelle Goldberg - New York Times

Like The Office in its universal workplace humor and even more like Mike White’s Enlightened in its textured portrayal of how small humiliations and injustices at work inevitably boil over into righteous rage, Help Wanted feels at once familiar yet revelatory in its specificity….[C]apture[s] a world and a moment in time in a way that…has more in common with the works of George Eliot and Jane Austen than most novels published today.

— Emily Gould - New York Magazine

Adelle Waldman applies her sharp sense for relational drama and dark comedy to the retail work space.…Help Wanted is structured around the collective, depicting the toll of capitalism on low-wage workers.

— Alexandra Chang - New York Times Book Review

Help Wanted washes labor in a stately, almost Steinbeckian light, emphasizing its difficulty but also its dignity….[I]t launches a broader social critique under the guise of a fizzy caper.

— Katy Waldman - The New Yorker

A superb, empathic comedy of manners….Perhaps the most impressive thing about Help Wanted is that Waldman manages, in telling her small story, to describe not just the American economic prison but the global one. So: both a novel of manners and a systems novel, a book that shows us, perhaps, how intimately linked these apparently disparate genres were all along.

— Kevin Power - Guardian

Whereas Waldman went narrow in the cultural purview of her first book, she has gone wide now…If Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. was a comedy of manners, Help Wanted is a tragedy of circumstance…As ever, Waldman is a sharp observer of the world, a writer whose attention to particulars only sharpens the big picture.

— Jordan Kisner - The Atlantic

Life behind the scenes of big-box retail is plumbed with wit, wisdom, and humanity in this fresh workplace drama….Waldman’s depiction of the routines, backstories, and relationships among a group of wonderfully believable characters could not be more fascinating or more fun.
— People Magazine

Graced with the psychological acuity that distinguished its predecessor.
— Maureen Corrigan - NPR

Sociologically astute, deeply humane, and cleverly plotted.…In the venerable tradition of social novels such as Victor Hugo's Les Misérables and Charles Dickens' Hard Times, Help Wanted draws attention to moral issues raised by systemic exploitation of the working poor. The marvel is that Waldman manages to do so with an engaging, lightly satirical touch.

— Heller McAlpin - Christian Science Monitor

The dramatic irony instills this comic novel’s small-time escapades with a potent and lingering feeling of injustice.
— Sam Sacks - Wall Street Journal

Great workplace novels are few and far between…and great workplace novels that deal with social and economic class in our country are even rarer. However, Waldman adds a rare entry to the workplace canon with this wise, funny story of an upstate New York big-box store.
— Bethanne Patrick - Los Angeles Times

A shrewd workplace comedy that never makes low-wage workers or the issues they face the punchline.
— Shannon Carlin - Time

The events in Adelle Waldman's fleet-footed novel Help Wanted take place at a box store of declining fortunes in upstate New York—a setting that in Waldman's steady hands proves to be a crucible of ambition and survival.

— Taylor Antrim - Vogue

Waldman observes her characters with the hilarious, remorseless precision real people use on real people.…Waldman’s briskly roving point of view captures the constant squeeze on everyone.
— Tom Socca - Air Mail

Funny and brilliant.…Airing the real world of low-wage work, Waldman shows how its dysfunction and instability skews the livelihoods of her deftly captured characters—and millions of other all-but-invisible workers like them.
— James Graff - National Book Review

Reflective, wry…If The Office had been centered on the warehouse crew at Dunder Mifflin, but without playing its workers entirely for laughs, it might have looked something like Waldman’s book.

— Harvey Freedenberg - Book Reporter

An immersive, deeply affecting human drama.
— Bookseller

The workplace dramedy of the year.
— Kirkus Reviews (starred)

With great compassion and humility….Waldman shines a much-needed spotlight on the inequities of corporate retail policies and practices.
— Carol Haggas - Booklist (starred review)

A bracing and worthwhile glimpse of the high stakes faced by low-wage workers.
— Publishers Weekly

Help Wanted is like a great nineteenth-century novel about now, at once an effervescent workplace comedy and a profoundly human exploration of the psychic toll exacted by the labor market. The characters are so richly drawn—so full, under all their defenses, of the desire to be loved—that even the annoying ones will win your heart. Adelle Waldman is a master.

— Elif Batuman, author of Either/Or

In Help Wanted, the tragic heroes of the gig economy, full of dreams and sob stories and what-if scenarios, concoct a plot to better their lives. Yet even as frustrations mount and their plot goes sideways, hope never dies. Adelle Waldman delivers both a brilliant diagnosis and a moving account of retail workers hidden in plain sight all around us, whose full humanity has never been so richly displayed or touchingly rendered.

— Joshua Ferris, author of A Calling for Charlie Barnes

A serious moral inquiry into the lives of a group of people who work in a big-box store, Help Wanted is a novel about work, about the retail industry in the age of Amazon, and about the effects of late capitalism on human relations. It is also hard to put down.

— Keith Gessen, author of Raising Raffi

What a gorgeous and ingenious and heartfelt work Help Wanted is!

— Michelle Orange, author of Pure Flame

I can’t think of a book more necessary. Adelle Waldman takes us into the universe of American labor with generosity and compassion. It has been a while since workers have been portrayed through the lens of a novelist with such insight and attention to the details of service industry life. Simply enthralling.
— Gary Shteyngart, author of Our Country Friends

Help Wanted isn’t just smart and funny and wise. It’s also important—vital, really—to our understanding of how and why the American dream is becoming increasingly inaccessible to working class Americans, even as that long-shot dream stubbornly refuses to die.

— Richard Russo, author of the North Bath trilogy and Empire Falls

Help Wanted is a marvelous novel. We get to eavesdrop and follow and enjoy the misadventures of the motley cast working the four in the morning shift (unloading trucks at a big box store, a place none of these workers can afford). On one level this is about economics and gentrification; on another level it is about people struggling to keep themselves from drowning; meanwhile there are hijinks so funny you blow your tea out of your nose; there’s a perfectly absurd plot straight out of Catch-22. We want everyone to get that lifesaving promotion. The worst thing about this novel is that I finished it and can’t ever read it again for the first time. But now it is part of my life. I am thankful to Adelle Waldman for being brave and talented and bighearted enough to have created this gift.

— Charles Bock, author of Alice & Oliver