An instant New York Times bestseller, “The Whisper Network” by Chandler Baker is a little bit of everything: fiction, mystery, thriller, contemporary, feminist, iconic and relatable.
The book centers around four women: Sloane, Ardie, Grace and Rosalita, who work at Truviv. The sudden death of Truviv’s CEO means Ames will most likely become the next one. Each of the four women experience working with Ames differently and the office is full of rumors about him sexually assaulting women. The whispers are often ignored and his victims keep quiet until a new colleague comes into the picture. With a recent assault and Ame’s likely promotion, the women decide enough is enough. It’s time to speak out.
The story’s core centers around the #MeToo Movement, and sexual harassment and assault in corporate America. The mystery aspect comes in during the short court transcripts that follow many of the chapters. Readers don’t exactly know what’s going on or why the characters are testifying in court yet, but it’s obvious something went terribly wrong.
Sloane, Ardie, Grace and Rosalita are all mothers, and the book examines the challenges of finding a work-life balance, and the double standards of working moms versus working dads.
“Children turned men into heroes and mothers into lesser employees, if we didn’t play our cards right.”
Being a working mother is a double-edged sword. When women work too much, they are seen as bad mothers. When they don’t work enough, they are seen as less valuable to their companies.
As a lawyer, Sloane makes more money than her husband and Rosalita is raising her child alone, so the importance of their jobs and the money they provide for their families can’t be denied.
“For our children, we chased the gold standard of suburban contentment set by our own stay-at-home mothers, while simultaneously stepping into the shoes of our bread-winning fathers.”
Sloane, Ardie, Grace and Rosalita constantly make decisions to put work or their children first. No matter which they choose though, they feel guilty.
“We will say this: none of us thought that motherhood and work could exist harmoniously. If anything, they were two forces, diametrically opposed. We were the prisoners, strapped to the medieval stretching device, having enjoyed the rare privilege of both loving and having chosen our torturers.”
Baker also mentions the other challenges of corporate America for women, such as how women are expected to act — never too emotional, always happy — and look — polished, professional and pretty — at work.
No matter how much progress there’s been for women throughout history, it’s still a man’s world. And the best way to survive is to have a tight-knit group of supportive friends in the office, which is what Sloane, Ardie and Grace, all lawyers, are to each other.
Rosalita is part of Truviv’s cleaning staff but her story intertwines with the other women’s more and more throughout the book, and Baker shows the hardships of class disparities in the office. As a Hispanic women, there is more of a risk for Rosalita to come forward with her assault story than it is for other women.
Baker also touches on bullying in school, postpartum depression, infidelity, single parenting and many other weighty, important issues. While many of the passages provide insight and thought-provoking quotes to readers on these topics, it felt too fleeting and not enough time spent on each. There was also not enough character development throughout the book. It was hard to grasp the personalities and struggles of each woman when the chapters changed between the four women’s points of view.
Despite these problems, “The Whisper Network” is still a page-turner with readers nodding in agreement with the opinions of the main characters and wondering what will happen next.
Ultimately, the story is a rallying cry for women to stop the whisper network and start speaking their truths to the world.
“And so, when one of us spoke up, it was never just for her. It was for us.”