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Charlotte Walsh Likes to Win


Charlotte Walsh Likes to Win

Charlotte Walsh is the very definition of a self-made woman. Born into humble beginnings in rural Pennsylvania, her role as “the Fixer” started early in life. Her mother was an unpredictable addict who, at times, couldn’t get out of bed, while her father --- a happy drunk --- was her hero and sole support system. Despite his faults, Marty’s strong work ethic and the time Charlotte spent sitting on the floor listening to angry men in union meetings shaped her formative years.

Graduating from a good college, Charlotte’s connection with a friend landed her a job with female politician Rosalind “Roz” Winters, who went from boss to mentor to friend. But her ambition kicked into high gear when she left the East Coast and landed in Silicon Valley, ready to make her mark on the world. Marrying Max Tanner --- a man who loved her for her brains and her beauty --- and having three children (two through IVF) didn’t stop her from becoming COO of Humanity, a high-powered tech company where her husband also worked as Vice President of Product and Engineering. There, she took pride in creating a company culture that retained female talent by offering benefits that are all but unheard of in corporate America.

Using her position to advocate for women’s rights led to a bestselling book and an interview question that planted a seed: Would she ever run for office? And when she learns about her husband’s affair, Charlotte has the leverage to do just that, uprooting her family from their cushy Californian life and taking up residence in the house in which she grew up to run for the Senate. One thing is for sure: Charlotte Walsh likes to win. But what will it take to get to the finish line?

"CHARLOTTE WALSH LIKES TO WIN delivers a well-spun, fast-paced and intelligent look at politics in modern-day America and our humanity within it."

Jo Piazza’s latest novel is the perfect fictional follow-up to Sheryl Sandberg’s LEAN IN. From the very first word, Piazza brilliantly draws the reader in as a fly on the wall in a no-holds-barred interview between candidate Charlotte Walsh and potential campaign manager Josh Pratt. While Charlotte bristles under questions of style rather than substance, Josh ruthlessly level-sets expectations (“As a woman, you bear the burden of having to appear charismatic, smart, well-groomed, nice, but not too can be a strong female candidate but not a feminist candidate...don’t be angry. No one likes an angry woman…”). And by the end of chapter one, any warm and fuzzy feelings evoked by nostalgic memories of “The West Wing” have been banished, and the stage is set for Charlotte’s race.

In current-day America, this story has the ring of truth to it, making it almost impossible not to reckon with some thought-provoking questions that don’t always have shiny answers. And all is accomplished without losing an ounce of steam in the pacing of the narrative or getting too far into the weeds of preaching a specific political stance or belief. As Charlotte “plays the game” as a female candidate running for public office in a state that has never elected a woman senator, her true passion and quick intellect are slowly buried in sound bites, public debates about her footwear, and sheer exhaustion poorly disguised with makeup. The book artfully illustrates the tension between the world of equality we want and the one in which we are actually living.

CHARLOTTE WALSH LIKES TO WIN captures a snapshot of a life under the microscope of professional politics, and the view isn’t very pretty. As Charlotte’s closest personal relationships begin to wear under the bright lights and need to project glossy perfection to the media, this book gives us the gift of putting ourselves in Charlotte’s shoes (Tory Burch flats, by the way) and experiencing a new point of view, all while curled up in a cozy reading chair.

Piazza has crafted some colorful, three-dimensional secondary characters, all of whom enrich the storytelling. Leila, Charlotte’s fiercely loyal and whip-smart assistant, steals every scene in which she appears. Josh, the campaign manager who tells it like he sees it, pushes Charlotte to greater heights and daily earns his ridiculously large salary. And Charlotte’s sister-in-law, Kara, is a wonderful relief, bringing joy with her breezy down-home charm, hair and makeup skills, and box wine.

While I wish there had been more resolution with a few of the storylines (including, but not limited to, Charlotte’s relationship with her brother, Paul) and more hope injected into the plot, I can’t fault Piazza completely for the approach she took. Though most of the book’s narrative was tightly woven, there were some moments that seemed disconnected and out of place. And even though I was fascinated by Charlotte, I didn’t always find her altogether likable. Nonetheless, I had a hard time putting the book down.

CHARLOTTE WALSH LIKES TO WIN delivers a well-spun, fast-paced and intelligent look at politics in modern-day America and our humanity within it. It is an insightful, immersing and important read for anyone who has asked the question “What does it take to create the world you want?”

Reviewed by Amy Haddock on August 17, 2018

Charlotte Walsh Likes to Win
by Jo Piazza

  • Publication Date: March 16, 2021
  • Genres: Fiction, Women's Fiction
  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • ISBN-10: 1501179438
  • ISBN-13: 9781501179433