The Beautiful Bureaucrat

Holt. Aug. 2015. 192p. ISBN 9781627793766. $25; ebk. ISBN 9781627793773. F
Phillips's debut (after the collection And Yet They Were Happy) tells of a seemingly meaningless clerical job in a faceless building in a big city that is gradually revealed to have consequences worthy of a Twilight Zone episode. Josephine is relieved finally to get a data-entry position after many months of unemployment, even though her nameless boss has rotten breath, her miniscule, windowless office has suspicious smudges on the walls, and the other employees appear to be nonexistent. The days she spends entering numbers onto endless forms are a stable counterpoint to the peripatetic living situation she shares with her husband, Joseph. Evicted from one sublet after another, the couple is sustained by love, sharing frugal candlelit meals on the floor. Gradually, Joseph's sudden late-night absences combined with the tedium and isolation of Josephine's job cause her to look under the surface of mundane events and discover the shocking mechanism that lies beneath.
VERDICT Suspenseful, creepy, and distinct, this work is sparse in style but elaborate in wordplay. For readers who like their literary fiction with a side of sf. [See Prepub Alert, 2/23/15.]
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