This Could Hurt (Medoff)

This Could Hurt 
Jillian Medoff, 2018
384 pp.

A razor-sharp and deeply felt novel that illuminates the pivotal role of work in our lives—and that captures the emotional complexities of five HR colleagues trying to balance ambition, hope, and fear as their small company is buffeted by economic forces that threaten to upend them.

Rosa Guerrero beat the odds as she rose to the top of the corporate world. An attractive woman of a certain age, the longtime chief of human resources at Ellery Consumer Research is still a formidable presence, even if her most vital days are behind her.

A leader who wields power with grace and discretion, she has earned the devotion and loyalty of her staff. No one admires Rosa more than her doting lieutenant Leo Smalls, a benefits vice president whose whole world is Ellery.

While Rosa is consumed with trying to address the needs of her staff within the ever-constricting limits of the company’s bottom line, her associate director, Rob Hirsch, a middle-aged, happily married father of two, finds himself drawing closer to his "work wife," Lucy Bender, an enterprising single woman searching for something—a romance, a promotion—to fill the vacuum in her personal life.

For Kenny Verville, a senior manager with an MBA, Ellery is a temporary stepping-stone to bigger and better places—that is, if his high-powered wife has her way.

Compelling, flawed, and heartbreakingly human, these men and women scheme, fall in and out of love, and nurture dreams big and small. As their individual circumstances shift, one thing remains constant—Rosa, the sun around whom they all orbit.

When her world begins to crumble, the implications for everyone are profound, and Leo, Rob, Lucy, and Kenny find themselves changed in ways beyond their reckoning.

Jillian Medoff explores the inner workings of an American company in all its brilliant, insane, comforting, and terrifying glory. Authentic, razor-sharp, and achingly funny, This Could Hurt is a novel about work, loneliness, love, and loyalty; about sudden reversals and unexpected windfalls; a novel about life. (From the publisher.)

Author Bio
Birth—August 21. 1963
Raised—Moved frequently around the US as a child
Education—B.A., Barnard College; M.F.A., New York University
Currently—lives in New York City, New York

Jillian Medoff is an American the author of several works of fiction, as well as a management consultant in communication and human resources. The eldest daughter of a traveling salesman, Medoff moved 17 times by age 17, ultimately settling in Atlanta, Georgia. She has a BA from Barnard College and an MFA from New York University.

Medoff's first novel, Hunger Point (1997) became the basis for an original 2003 Lifetime movie starring Barbara Hershey and Christina Hendricks. Her second novel is Good Girls Gone Bad (2002), and her third I Couldn't Love You More (2012). This Could Hurt (2018) draws on her work knowledge of corporate human resources.

Corporate career
In addition to her writing, Medoff also has a career in management consulting and corporate communications. She’s worked for a wide range of employers across multiple industries, including Deloitte, Aon, Revlon, Max Factor and Medco.

Currently, Medoff is a Senior Consultant with The Segal Group, advising clients on communication strategies for all aspects of the employee experience. This includes workforce engagement, performance management, and professional development. She’s fluent in HR practices and procedures, as well as benefits and pay programs. (Adapted from Wikipedia. Retrieved 1/30/2018.)

Book Reviews
The amount of time we spend on the job—the getting ready for, the getting-to, the getting-from, the long hours doing it and the longer hours worrying about it—make JIllian Medoff’s smart, funny novel, THIS COULD HURT, especially pertinent. The author has penned a comedic love letter to the workplace at a time when morbid satires, spoofs, and putdowns have become the fashion. Her proposition is salutary—work can be the place where we grow into our better selves … if we let it.  READ MORE…
Molly Lundquist - LitLovers

As smart as Medoff’s critique of corporate inanity is, it’s tempered by compassion for these people, who are ultimately tender with each other, too.… Through the subterranean strata of this failing office run alliances and feuds, love affairs and betrayals that influence raises, promotions and dismissals. And when Rosa herself gets in trouble, how far will her beloved staff go to protect her from the rigid mechanics of the corporation? The answer to that question becomes the story’s central problem, its funniest routine and its most moving element.
Washington Post

There’s an air of The Office TV show in its darkly comic tone, but it delves more deeply and seriously into the dynamics of a workplace.… It’s a rich lode. Medoff mines the phenomenon of the "office wife," generational values, gender politics, racial nervousness, networking and more, all set against the irrevocable reality of meeting the bottom line.… She’s a deft observer of office politics, as well as human relationships. She has a sense of history. And she wastes no one’s time: The narrative cracks along, without an indulgent passage in the book.
Minneapolis Star-Tribune

This smart, jaunty novel takes the lid off a small company’s faltering human resources department to reveal intrigue and backstabbing that only intensify when the boss gets sick. But, as Medoff deftly reminds us, decency can find a way of surfacing even among the filing cabinets.

Medoff explores the effects of the 2008 economic downturn on a small staff of human resources managers…in this witty novel.… The characters are well-drawn, though the author gets stuck in their personal tangents…. Nevertheless, this is a sharp and moving novel.
Publishers Weekly

(Starred review.) Medoff is a master of the small, telling detail that completely nails a person's psyche, delivering a cast of characters flawed yet struggling to redeem themselves. An ultimately hopeful, completely inventive tale. —Christine Perkins, Whatcom Cty. Lib. Syst., Bellingham, WA
Library Journal

Incisive.… Medoff’s scenarios will be familiar to everyone employed everywhere,… and she cogently captures the angst and celebrates the camaraderie of coworkers committed to group success while struggling with personal demons.

Shrewd and deeply affecting.… Sharply drawn intimate details about the lives of each character add even greater depth and broaden the timeless appeal of this very smart, thoroughly absorbing story.
Shelf Awareness

Intrigue swirls around HR executive Rosa Guerrero in this engrossing workplace drama…. An economical epilogue makes clever use of corporate organization charts to quickly trace the characters' odysseys after the story's bittersweet conclusion…. A sharp-eyed novel of corporate manners.
Kirkus Reviews

Discussion Questions
We'll add publisher questions if and when they're available; in the meantime, use our LitLovers talking points to help start a discussion for This Could Hurt by Jillian Medoff … then take off on your own:

1. How Emory has been impacted by the 2008 financial meltdown? In particular, how does the crash affect the team working for Rosa?

2. Talk about Rosalita Guerrero. What kind of a manager is she, and what kind of sacrifices has she made for her career? Have you ever worked for someone as devoted to the job as she is? Do you have a similar kind of investment in your own career or job?

3. According to Rosa, "A business unit was not a family—period. Yet what fueled an employee's success, and in turn, the company's, were the very qualities that bound a family: loyalty, diligence, humor, grace." Care to unpack that statement? Do you find it contradictory—a business unit is a not a family, but it has to act like a family—or does it make sense to you?

4. Talk about Rosa's staff—their various traits and quirks: Rob Hirsch, Lucy Bender, Leo Small, and Ken Verville. Of the team members, whom do you admire … distrust … find fault with … or sympathize with more than others?

5. Rosa advises her subordinates: "The key is to be the same person at home and at work." Why does she believe that? Are you the same person in both venues? Is it truly advisable—is it even possible? Or is Rosa implying that the "you" at home is the more authentic person than the "you" in the office?

6. Talk about Lucy and Rob's relationship. Is Lucy Rob's "office wife"? What is an "office wife"? Are there "office husbands"? Have you been an office spouse or had one? Does your spouse have an office spouse?

7. What kind of "gender wars," if any, are played out in this novel?

8. The author pokes fun at the way women dressed for the office in the 2000s, calling it "the worst period of women's business attire." How should women dress in the corporate world—what is appropriate attire? Same goes for men—and why is the business suit de rigueur?

9. What is the significance of the book's title?

10. Follow-up to Question 9: Is it true that "every new job is another chance to reinvent yourself"?

11. The primary concern of This Could Hurt is finding satisfaction and fulfillment in our work and relationships. How does the novel suggest we should go about that?

(Questions by LitLovers. Please feel free to use them, online and off, with attribution. Thanks.)

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