Megan Goldin combines the premise of Faust with some elements of the movie “Wall Street” and even a touch of “She-Devil” in her latest novel The Escape Room. Her protagonist, Sara Hall, covets the sumptuous lifestyle of the financial sector’s elite and sees her entry into that world as an escape from her current life of subsistence. Sara has the right combination of desperation, ambition and naivete to be a willing victim of a system that encourages a lack of empathy and flexible ethical limits. When an opportunity arises at Stanhope in NY, she immediately immerses herself in the competitive culture of the firm, with its grueling hours and back-stabbing colleagues. The chapters in the novel alternate between Sara’s experiences as a new hire and a future in which the other members of her team find themselves trapped in an “escape room” situation that proves to be much more than a game. How these two scenarios tie in together is skillfully revealed as the story unfolds. The Escape Room addresses issues of sexual harassment, income inequality and gender discrimination in the workplace. It also raises the question of how far a person would compromise his/her values in order to wrest some of the riches that are so esteemed in our culture. Despite some plot elements that stretch credulity and some well-worn stereotypes, Goldin’s novel is a fast-paced and gripping read. This would be a great pick for a captivating beach read this summer.
Thanks to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for an ARC of this book in exchange for an objective review.