Reviews for Temporary

by Hilary Leichter

Publishers Weekly
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Leichter’s funny, absurdist debut cleverly explores a capitalist society taken to a dreamlike extreme. The narrator is a temporary—an employee of the world, whose temp agency can place people in different jobs, from the banal (basic office work) to the incredibly unlikely (subbing in for a barnacle by clinging to a rock). She has 18 unnamed boyfriends, who bond in her apartment while she is gone. Her boss, a woman named Farren, places the lead on a pirate ship, where she is asked to kill a hostage. She rebels, only to end up working as an assistant to an assassin. Though the jobs are temporary, the narrator accumulates objects—such as stolen boots, and a necklace containing the ashes of the Chairman of the Board, whose ghost is a supporting character. A particularly strong section comes in the middle of the book, when the narrator remembers her first assignment: her mother leaves her to wander through an empty house and close its doors over and over again. Though consistently zany, there are moments of profundity: always coming back to her many boyfriends and the desire to realize “the steadiness” (a tongue-in-cheek aspiration to find a fulfilling, lifelong career), the heroine finally finds peace through her conversations with the Chairman. Leichter’s cutting, hilarious critique of the American dream will appeal to fans of Italo Calvino. (Mar.)

Library Journal
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DEBUT Leichter's debut introduces readers to an unnamed temporary worker who lives in a bizarre world in which it's possible to fill in for the chair of a board of directors, assist an assassin, step in as a mother to a lost child, and work as a pirate deckhand on a ship with a human resources department. Anything can be a temp role in the world of the protagonist, who additionally has 18 boyfriends to fit every possible mood, season, height requirement, and occasion. She takes on ever stranger jobs, all with gusto and all to find something to call her own: a permanent place in a world that has made temporary positions out of every facet of life. VERDICT At once hilarious, surreal, and serious, Leichter's first novel reveals truths about capitalist society while exploring the meaning of doing one's work well, despite how ridiculous or temporary it might be. This will be enjoyed by fans of Jen George and Helen Ellis.—Mara Shatat, Ursuline Coll. Lib., Pepper Pike, OH

Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

A young temp searches for permanence in Leichter's whimsically surreal fable of late-stage capitalism.The nameless protagonist of Leichter's debut leads a temporary existence. "The calls come on Mondays and Fridays, flanking each week with ephemeral placements," she explains. It's her job to fill in for others, and she takes it seriously; after all, as she read once on a granola bar wrapper, "there is nothing more personal than doing your job." All people are replaceable, but the jobs must continue. Filling in for the chairman of the board at Major Corp ("the very, very major corporation"), it is her job to sign documents and stamp dates and run meetings and wear fashionable scarves. "Everyone has a parcel of work they don't want to do themselves, and what can I say? I'm a purveyor of finished parcels," she says simply. Soon, she leaves the city and her cadre of casual boyfriendsher culinary boyfriend and her tallest boyfriend and her earnest boyfriend, a designated boyfriend for each possible purposefor a series of increasingly absurd assignments. On a pirate ship, she fills in for someone named Darla, swabbing the decks and cleaning the company buckets, adjusting her temperament to best channel real Darla. But then Darla returnsshe was only visiting her grandparents in Floridaand our unnamed protagonist is on to her next transient post, filling in at a small murder business, with logistics. She comes from a long line of temporaries, but still, she hopes it is temporary, being a temporary. The lucky temps ascend to a state of permanence"the steadiness," they call it. "My dream job," she tells her earnest boyfriend, "is a job that stays." The novel, playful bordering on twee, is not especially subtle in its commentarya cohesive identity? in this economy?but it's clever and strange and, in the end, unexpectedly hopeful, less a biting gig-economy satire than a wistful 21st-century myth.A dreamy meditation on how we construct who we are. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

In this fever dream of a novel, a young woman navigates the impermanence and forced intimacy of life as a professional temp. The unnamed protagonist floats from assignment to assignment, adapting to new environments and expectations, and valuing nothing more than a job well done. She is ultimately seeking the steadiness, or lasting employment with one entity. Her adventures as a temp are never boring: she fills in for a billionaire CEO, joins a pirate ship as the resident limb-severing mate, tries out stay-at-home motherhood, and even offers her skills to a hired assassin in need of an assistant. Her inability to complete certain tasks associated with her placement under the hitman leads to trouble with the temp agency. Suddenly, the uncertain life she's grown accustomed to is in jeopardy. Without a good relationship with the temp agency, the protagonist fears the steadiness may be permanently out of reach. This book is a potent and ethereal look at late capitalism for the young professional. Perfect for fans of Severance (2018) by Ling Ma.--Courtney Eathorne Copyright 2020 Booklist