Tracy Flick Can't Win by Tom Perrotta: A review

 

If you are looking for a contemporary novel with humor that has a darker edge to it, this may be just the book you want. Tom Perrotta introduces us to Tracy Flick, the assistant principal at a New Jersey high school where the long-time principal Jack Weede has just announced his retirement. And just like that, Tracy Flick's career that had seemed stalled looks like it might have an opening to move forward. Will this finally be the time when Tracy Flick can win?


Tracy is energized by the prospect of a promotion and she throws herself into her work with a renewed vigor, hoping to prove to everyone that she is ready for the next step up. But while focusing on her career, she also must manage a somewhat complicated personal life involving her ten-year-old daughter, her doctor boyfriend who seems particularly needy, and her sideline of leading a growing meditation practice. It may be too much even for diligent and hard-working Tracy.

Things never come easy for Tracy and while she looks forward to a possible promotion, she must serve on the Selection Committee for Green Meadow High School's Hall of Fame. It's a position fraught with peril for an ambitious woman. The top candidate preferred by all the male members of the committee is the school's former star quarterback Vito Falcone. (And of course it would be a star quarterback!) Following high school, Vito had a brief and undistinguished career in the NFL. Reflecting on Vito's career leads Tracy to also consider her own which has left her feeling thwarted and unable to fulfill her potential.

While considering the Hall of Fame selection, Tracy ponders her chances for the promotion that she longs for. She wonders if the Superintendent is plotting against her and whether the School Board will really fairly consider her or if there are ulterior purposes at work that may deny her the position that she deserves. It's a situation that may feel familiar to anyone who has ever waited out a decision on a much-desired promotion.

In Tracy, Tom Perrotta has given us a sympathetic character that many of his readers will be able to identify with. He tells the story with humor, sometimes laugh-out-loud humor, but underneath is the serious situation of a middle-aged-woman looking at what may be a last chance to move ahead in her career and in her life and haunted by the feeling that, no matter what, she just can't win. Readers will be fervently hoping that Tracy is proved wrong.

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