Book Review: ‘The Startup Wife’ by Tahmima Anam – Leisure News
Three New Yorkers who have always felt like outsiders: Asha, the immigrant; Jules, the poor little rich boy; and Cyrus, the unemployed hippie spirit guide, eventually become the founders of a million dollar startup. Asha is the coder and Jules is the entrepreneur, but it is Cyrus with his enviable hair and sufficient memory for obscure religious rites who becomes the star and, later, the villain, of the start-up WAI ( pronounced “why”, short for We are Infinite), an app that “anticipates people’s need for meaning and ritual”. Yeah.
Tahmima Anam creates a fun parody of today’s tech startup culture in The Startup Wife, with exposed brick walls, aversion to vowels (the characters eat at restaurants called “Pikl” and “Mylkist”) and “vegan superfoods” like “hemp mylkshake coffee with extra CBD shots” —the smart hits keep coming. How lovely it would have been if the book had also made a significant contribution to the conversation about consent, feminism, women in male-dominated professions, and any other wide array of complex issues it tries to cover. Unfortunately, it doesn’t do much other than reaffirm what the reader probably already knows – that technology can’t save the world, and men will sometimes let you down.
Worse yet, Anam applies the same broad strokes to her characters, which look like cardboard cutouts depicting some really interesting and complex people. We never get to know the cool-headed, nerdy programmer Asha any better, nor do we understand how the sensitive, utterly obnoxious artist Cyrus came to be. Likewise, the extensive cast of young founders, whose whole personality can be summed up in mere adjectives, lacks nuance – the militant vegan, the founder, the serious coder, the fatherly CFO.
What annoys the most is that Anam doesn’t seem to present any clear point of view on the issues she is addressing. Yes, women play as much a role in self-decline as men; yes, not all organic superfoods in the world can protect against climate change; yes, men have a fragile ego; and, yes, the startup world is starting to look a lot like a cartoon itself. These seem to be the only messages, scribbled in pencil without shadow or depth. Opinion can come disguised as a parody and humor can make you think and feel; unfortunately, The Startup Wife doesn’t even try to be more.
It’s entertaining and I hiked it on a lazy weekend. But once finished, I forgot everything.