Camille Perri’s debut book, The Assistants, is an imaginative chick lit novel with a strong sprinkling of class envy, income inequality and suffocating student debt. Tina Fontana, the highly educated, overworked and underpaid executive assistant to a media boss who bears a strong resemblance to a Ted Turner or Rupert Murdoch type, can’t imagine how she will ever pay back her student loans, no matter how she cuts corners, while the executives at her firm spend more money on wine or a tie clip than her monthly salary.
When she submits her boss’s reimbursement form, an accounting snafu pays back her boss but also sends a large amount of money her way, which turns out to be almost the exact amount of her student debt. What’s a girl to do, return the check or take it home overnight just to take a picture of it? With no intention of cashing the check, she, of course, semi-inadvertently does so, and her deceit remains undetected, or so she thinks. This sets off an assortment of madcap decisions relating to other underpaid and over debted assistants at the firm.
Perri’s descriptions of the highly intense NY workplace and the plight of the underlings appears spot on. With humor and pathos she somehow convinces the reader to root for Tina and her gang as their Robin Hood type larceny escalates even though they are stealing and breaking the law. This is a delightfully thoughtful book where the underdogs perhaps have a shot at winning in an economic system stacked against them. Millennials and others who can suspend their disbelief will find this a refreshingly quick but worthwhile summer read.