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The New Me by Halle Butler
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The New Me

by Halle Butler

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784235,541 (4.11)8
"[A] definitive work of millennial literature . . . wretchedly riveting." --Jia Tolentino, The New Yorker "Girls Office Space My Year of Rest and Relaxation + anxious sweating = The New Me." --Entertainment Weekly I'm still trying to make the dream possible: still might finish my cleaning project, still might sign up for that yoga class, still might, still might. I step into the shower and almost faint, an image of taking the day by the throat and bashing its head against the wall floating in my mind. Thirty-year-old Millie just can't pull it together. She spends her days working a thankless temp job and her nights alone in her apartment, fixating on all the ways she might change her situation--her job, her attitude, her appearance, her life. Then she watches TV until she falls asleep, and the cycle begins again. When the possibility of a full-time job offer arises, it seems to bring the better life she's envisioning within reach. But with it also comes the paralyzing realization, lurking just beneath the surface, of how hollow that vision has become.  "Wretchedly riveting" (The New Yorker) and "masterfully cringe-inducing" (Chicago Tribune), The New Me is the must-read new novel by National Book Foundation "5 Under 35" honoree and Granta Best Young American novelist Halle Butler.… (more)
  1. 10
    My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh (RidgewayGirl)
    RidgewayGirl: Both novels share razor-sharp writing, a deeply unsympathetic protagonist and an eye for the less savory parts of daily existence.
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» See also 8 mentions

Showing 4 of 4
I can understand the comparison between this short novel and My Year of Rest and Relaxation, which is one of my favorites of the year. However, for me this one didn't work as well. Perhaps it's because I can find nothing in the main character, Millie, to connect myself to. I like to think that I would never find myself in an existence such as hers (and why does she always smell?). The people around her seem just as shallow and purposeless, though. Is life really just a colossal waste of time? This book really depressed me. ( )
  sturlington | Jun 25, 2019 |
Millie is working as a temp in the office of a design company. She answers phones and collates papers and dislikes her co-workers, who return the favor. Despite the mind-numbing boredom, she hopes to be made permanent and the signs are looking good. She thinks about how much her life will be improved by the modest bump in pay and begins her program to become The New Me, better than the old one, a person who doesn't spend all her time watching TV on her laptop and drinking, but who does things like yoga and reading and keeping her apartment tidy.

Halle Butler has written about a character who would fit right in with anything written by Ottessa Moshfegh. Millie is an unpleasant, suffocating person to spend time with and this novel was a delight. There was a sense of things being able to go in any number of directions, most of them very bad. Butler's writing was sharp as knives and nails the atmosphere of office life, a place where we are obligated to be, doing things we don't enjoy, in the company of people we'd rather not be around. ( )
2 vote RidgewayGirl | Apr 18, 2019 |
The Short of It:

Think “The Office” minus all the funny characters who make it laughable.

The Rest of It:

Millie is a thirty-something who hasn’t quite figured out how to be a grown-up. She lives alone in an apartment that is partly paid for by her parents. Friends? Not many. She eats poorly and has become a slob. Dressing is too much effort. Just getting up is too much effort but she drags herself to and from her temp job, hoping for a permanent position.

Millie embodies what I think most people this age feel these days. Their social skills are lacking to the point where everything they do is marked by awkwardness. A simple interaction with a co-worker becomes an anxiety-ridden experience and miscommunications become a daily occurrence. Millie is woefully aware of her shortcomings. Because of this, I found myself wanting to take her out for a coffee just so I could give her a little pep talk.

I really enjoyed The New Me. At first, I thought the entire book would be an outline of her day-to-day existence but although there is a lot of that (what she wears, eats, thinks, does), there is enough self-discovery going on for it all to have a purpose.

I found Butler’s take on cube life to be quite accurate. I’ve always had an office but for the past two years have been working out of a very nice, well-appointed cubical and all the little details she adds to embellish office life are spot on. The noises. The sighs. The trash cans and the smells. I found much of the book humorous but in a dark way.

The ending was interesting and honestly, can be interpreted in a couple different ways. I kind of liked that it was up to me but maybe I am the only one to see the alternate possibility? I haven’t seen it mentioned elsewhere.

Anyway, enjoyable and short and if you’ve ever had to work in a cube or struggled to get by as a young person, you will be able to relate.

For more reviews, visit my blog: Book Chatter. ( )
1 vote tibobi | Mar 7, 2019 |
Another fine Penguin original, buy one from your local bookseller this Tuesday!

Millie is working another in a long line of temp jobs in Chicago. At thirty she expected to have gotten more from life. It's been over a year since her long term relationship imploded, she lives alone in the apartment subsidized by her parents, and the only friend she hasn't alienated is a bore. There is a possibility her current job could be permanent, could this change everything?

I loved, loved, loved this book. It is awful and cruel and just so fucking dead-on. I'm a reluctant millennial, I don't hold to the generation-bashing business - can baby boomers or gen x really afford to throw any stones? - but I just don't feel like I have anything in common with my age cohort. I buy things, not experiences, for one. Collecting is important, damn it.

Off-topic, sorry. Never mind.

'The New Me' is a convincing portrait of a young woman at a crisis in her life, trying to solve her problems with the solutions she's been taught to attempt. There are many things that Millie and I don't have in common, but her experience rang true with my own in many other ways. Butler moves the narrative from Millie's often claustrophobic and occasionally self-destructive behavior to her supervisor's, co-worker's, neighbor's, whenever an outside perspective is illuminating. This is a brief book, but every word counts. I loved the ending. ( )
1 vote ManWithAnAgenda | Feb 28, 2019 |
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