The Glitch by Elisabeth Cohen

May 24, 2018

Genre: Women’s fiction

Release date: May 22, 2018

Rated: Bypass it / 2 stars

A high-powered executive at a critical career juncture meets a young woman claiming to be her younger self. What follows is a series of events that makes the executive question everything she thought she knew about her identity. Author Elisabeth Cohen offers readers a powerful protagonist in a lackluster story in her debut The Glitch.

Shelley Stone, CEO of the tech company Conch, may not have invented multi-tasking, but she certainly owns the concept. With her entire life planned down to the minute, her efficiency would put Mary Poppins to shame. While her first love is her work, she makes genuine efforts to be a good wife and mother. She’d just rather be in the office, surrounded by her employees, than at her daughter’s preschool handing out cupcakes.

Everything at Conch seems to be shooting for the stars. Shelley is thoroughly invested in the evolution of the wearable technology as well as retaining current customers. The unobtrusive, unnoticeable earpiece has acted as a personal assistant to millions of users, offering everything from weather alerts and introductions to other Conch users as well as reminders about important dates and alerts about personal health. Like other tech dreamers, Shelley won’t stop at anything until everyone owns a Conch. She relies on hers like she would on her right arm.

When she meets a young woman who the Conch says is also named Shelley Stone, the self-assured CEO finds herself in doubt for the first time in a long time. The 19-year-old almost convinces Shelley to believe she’s somehow the younger version of herself come to the future; almost, but not quite. That tiny gap acts as a crack in the solid veneer Shelley began building for herself after suffering from a freak accident. The lightning strike she underwent as a teenager changed Shelley irrevocably, or so she thought. Now, with this woman’s mysterious appearance in her life and Conch starting to suffer problems as well, Shelley begins to wonder whether it truly is possible to win at everything.

Author Elisabeth Cohen spends an inordinate amount of time building Shelley’s character. The result is a well-rounded, three-dimensional character in a two-dimensional, flat book. Shelley’s profile will confirm for those detractors of female executives that a woman can’t have it all, that she can’t possibly be a good wife and mother and run a Fortune 500 all equally well because somewhere, something goes very bad very fast.

Case in point: the book opens with Shelley’s daughter, Nova, disappearing from the beach for a short period of time while the family is on vacation. Another example comes later in the story when Shelley takes Nova to work for the morning and she can’t relate to Nova’s interest in her plastic horses. She’s hoping to influence Nova, to mold her in her own image.

In fact, for someone so brilliant at her job, she comes across as terribly obtuse when she meets the mysterious young woman who claims to be the young Shelley Stone. It’s disappointing to see that the real Shelley can’t use her extensive life experience to help her separate fact from fiction. Instead the meeting propels Shelley into a long period of introspection—as in, pages of it.

What follows, then, is a story where we see Shelley floundering, and the plot flounders with her. The husband who in the opening chapters seemed as career-driven as her does an about-face. Conch, the amazing tech that is supposed to be transforming Silicon Valley, starts to show signs of problems. Shelley herself starts to lose the self-assurance that makes her so attractive as a character in the first place.

Instead of a strong sprint to the finish, readers will spend too much time treading water waiting for the book to end. It’s a shame, too. Given the right kind of story, Shelley would have come out the winner she already is in her professional life.

The end sees Shelley doing an abrupt turn in her life, which comes across as neither believable nor satisfying. I recommend readers Bypass The Glitch by Elisabeth Cohen.