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The Startup Wife

Review

The Startup Wife

Packaged as edgy chick lit, Tahmima Anam’s THE STARTUP WIFE has grander ambitions. It imagines what happens when idealists create a seemingly benign --- and scalable --- new platform, only to see their own lives bear the burden of their success.

Protagonist Asha Ray, a second-generation Bangladeshi, has adored Cyrus Jones, an unworldly philosopher, since high school. When they meet again, the brilliant programmer and her handsome dreamer fall in love and marry. Soon, Asha abandons her MIT fellowship to work with Cyrus on a new social media platform that will “restore and amplify faith --- not in a higher power but in humanity.”

"For anyone interested in the world of social media, THE STARTUP WIFE is a fascinating insider’s view of the exhilarating, exhausting chase for relevance."

With the help of their friend Jules, whose family initially bankrolls them, the company soars to multi-million-dollar success. Though uninvolved in the development of the platform, Cyrus becomes the CEO, and Asha is the workaholic CTO. Things slowly start to fall apart as Cyrus develops a devoted following and grows increasingly messianic. But when their platform gets caught up in a tragedy, Asha blames Cyrus, throwing their business and personal lives into crisis. The novel’s denouement is shocking but, given what has preceded it, inevitable.

The platform’s premise is remarkably well conceived and threatens at times to derail the storyline with examples of how users rely on the aptly named WAI (We Are Infinite) for spiritual guidance. The other characters in the book are not as well-conceived as Asha is, and the VCs are nothing more than colorful caricatures, but our protagonist has some likable wing(wo)men, including her sister and a couple of feminist app developers. There’s a lot of references to the male-dominated world of startups and finance, as well as riffs on why one bizarre app will get funded while another has no traction.

Much of the story is set in Utopia, a quirky New York incubator where developers have a place to begin their path to funding, fame and personal fortune. For anyone interested in the world of social media, THE STARTUP WIFE is a fascinating insider’s view of the exhilarating, exhausting chase for relevance.

Reviewed by Lorraine W. Shanley on July 16, 2021

The Startup Wife
by Tahmima Anam

  • Publication Date: July 13, 2021
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner
  • ISBN-10: 198215618X
  • ISBN-13: 9781982156183