Sunday, March 22, 2020
Books: "The Herd" By Andrea Bartz
By Andrea Bartz
Ballantine Books; hardcover, 336 pages; $27.00; available March 24
Brooklyn-based author Andrea Bartz won rave reviews last year with her debut novel, The Lost Night, which was expired by her own experiences as a post-grad in Brooklyn in the time of the Great Recession around 2008. That novel, which was set in the hipster enclaves of Williamsburg and Bushwick, explored themes of friendship, identity, and obsession inside that eerie, closed-door world.
In her second novel, The Herd, Bartz invites readers into another world, that of an exclusive, elite women-only co-working space that prides itself on mentorship and empowerment. There is a clamoring among connected New Yorkers to earn membership.
Katie Bradley is one of the hopefuls, a journalist who has just returned from the Midwest, where she was doing a book research that blew up in her face. She had an "in" thanks to her sister, Hana, an original Herder and the best friend of Eleanor Walsh, its charismatic founder.
Eleanor is admired and quietly feared, even as she strives to be warm and approachable. Hana is in charge of public relations, and is working around the clock in preparation for a big announcement from Eleanor, one that will change The Herd's trajectory forever. Meanwhile, Katie secretly hopes she has found her next book subject in Eleanor, who is brilliant, trailblazing, while extremely private.
On the night of The Herd's glitzy news conference, Eleanor vanishes without a trace. Everybody has a theory why she ran, but when the police suspect foul play, everyone becomes a suspect, from her husband to other Herders, to the men's rights groups that have had it out for The Herd since it opened, to even her close friends.
As Hana tries to figure out what her friend was hiding, Katie is chasing the story of her life, and the sisters have to face down the secrets they're hiding from each other.
Bartz said of what inspired her new novel, "I love trying to capture the complex dynamics of a close-knit, closed-door social milieu - that's why I set The Lost Night behind the graffiti-splattered doors of Calhoun Lofts, a hipster playground in deep-recession Brooklyn. I wanted to set my second book inside an equally fascinating, exclusive world. While I'm not a member of any all-female coworking spaces, I've visited many as a guest, and I've read the articles debating their merit as 'flashpoint[s] for debates over feminism, money, and power,' as one article dubbed them. I thought it would be fun to set a thriller full of secrets, lies, and hidden agendas in such an airy, beautiful, positive setting. In a flash, I saw the Herd's logo with the H-E-R in purple, and I was off and running."
On how she crafted the characters in the book, Bartz says, "I write without an outline (I'm what's known as a 'pantser,' not a plotter), so I was figuring out their personalities as I put together the first draft. I wanted all the female characters to have very different approaches to succeeding in a man's world. I enjoyed switching back and forth between brash, outspoken Katie and mature, conscientious Hana because I vacillate between those two extremes myself; most women will recognize the urge to grab the spotlight and make everyone laugh, but also to be the organized, in-control grownup in high-stakes situations. Eleanor took me the longest to understand, because she's so buttoned-up and perfect-seeming. But of course, there's always more than meets the eye."
If you enjoyed the suspense of The Lost Night, Bartz delivers yet again with The Herd, a book you won't want to put down, and which captures the effects of the female empowerment movement.
For more information on Andrea Bartz, visit randomhousebooks.com or andreabartz.com, and visit her on Twitter and Instagram @andibartz.