Reviewed by Kaeley DeLuca


Temporary By Hilary Leichter, Minneapolis, MN: Coffee House Press, 208 pages, $16.95

A novel, presented in a cultural postmodernist tradition, Temporary sets itself apart from published pieces of the modern age. Humor, longing, tragedy, and curiosity all tied together in a hand-crafted bow you could only find on Etsy. She narrates her life through the lives of others, taking you down a narrow, winding path of unfamiliar territory and self-discovery. Her debut novel is one among many accomplished pieces Leichter has written. Some of her work has appeared in the New Yorker, the Southern Review, the Cut, and n+1 in addition to various other literary avenues.

Living in Brooklyn, New York, Leichter taught fiction at Columbia University, and has been awarded fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts and the Folger Shakespeare Library. Her life in New York peeks through the curtains of the pages and grants a glimpse into the not-so-posh life of a hard-working New Yorker.

Hilary Leichter provides us with parcels of wit, demise, emotional breakthroughs, and philosophical breakdowns all while fighting the uphill battle against corporate domain. She is relentless in her message and provides novel insight into the world of temporaries. What it means to be a temp. Who classifies as a temp. Why it is important to understand your job as a temp in an ever-shifting mudslide of opportunity. She tells us who will comfort you. Who will abandon you, and most importantly, why you really need to be you.

Her writing is captivating and calculated, each page a puzzle piece. You slowly fit them together until you have a whole, a whole that is not only a literal whole, but a wholeness you can feel. You feel what she wants you to feel, you are taken to the places she explored. Her emotions seep through the pages onto your fingertips. Leichter’s ability to capture emotion – not by telling you what she is feeling but by showing – is one of the most brilliant abilities I’ve seen. Her adventures awaken something within you – desire maybe – but something that you didn’t know needed to be awake, something that you didn’t know you had within you.

You feel compassion, desperation, exhaustion, love, abandon, the full spectrum of human emotion in less than 300 pages of text. Movies, full movies, with their lights-camera- action, have not made me feel the way I felt after reading this piece. It sparks something within you, a deterministic something, that makes you want to be the person you were meant to be in the adult world of work. It shows you responsibility, and when responsibility for yourself and your ethical being contradicts the responsibilities of the workplace. The decisions you make that define who you are as a person, even when your name isn’t your name and your job isn’t your job.

She asks us the hard questions, what is really important? Is it being a good person? Is it being the person other people want you to be? Is it adjusting yourself and your beliefs to satisfy the people you (temporarily) work with? Is it sticking up for those who can’t stick up for themselves? Is it picking up the pieces someone else left behind? While you ponder these existential thoughts, she takes you on a gripping tour of her world, her life, and her work.

Throughout her novel, the subtle notes of breakroom coffee and printer paper fill your senses, leaving you defenseless against the fifteen-minute smoke-break waiting for you outside – after you finished making those copies of course. The rush-hour traffic and ticking wristwatch become a part of who you are. You are taken right into the heart of the hustle and bustle of New York City. You see the fits and the misfits, the liars and the tryers, the haves and the have-nots, the thieves and the Steve’s. Sometimes you want to cry and comfort her, sometimes you want to adjust your fancy work skirt with a little slit in it, fix your pilled sweater and wash that dirty mug of yours, sitting lonely on the corner of your desk.

Leichter writes so effortlessly and passionately that you can’t put it down, make another coffee (or tea), and resume. It’s the type of story that won’t beg too much time from you, but needs your full attention. Smart, witty, insightful and masterful, Temporary is a captivating experience, that I believe everyone should have, at least once. Whether you are newly employed, looking for jobs, or on the brink of retirement, her message is relatable to all audiences and reader-folk that need a good laugh. Sitting at your desk, by the pool, in the sand, or in the quiet luxury of your comfiest chair at home, Temporary provides the type of read you need for your summer internship, international trip, or retirement quip. To me, this is a must-read.