Published by Simon & Schuster
Publication date: March 4th 2014
Beauty is Frederick Dillen’s new novel and in it we meet Carol McLean, who spent her teen years helping neighborhood boys find parts for their beat-up cars but grows up to work for a private equity firm that buys companies only to sell their parts. She is the go-to person for these company shut downs, known as an undertaker, for coming in and laying off all staff and management and selling the remains for cash. While not the most glamorous job it’s what she’s good at and she has extracted a promise from one of the partners that after completing her current deal she will be exiting the firm to run her own company. It is a shock then, when she gets a call halfway through this final closure and is informed that she is being replaced and that there will be no company of her own. She has been sold out by the money men who have brought in someone younger and cheaper to do her job.
It’s at this point that Carol looks at Elizabeth Seafood Products and once she sees past the financial oddities senior management has created to line their pockets she decides that not only does it have an intrinsic value but that with her guidance she can run it and make it profitable. From that point on, Dillen’s plot percolates with Carol trying to convince the factory workers, fisherman, and townspeople that her idea is a good one for all of them. If one of the fishermen happens to be somewhat intriguing and shows an interest in Carol, even better. It’s a bit of seasoning to a story that features a strong, mature woman who’s been called the Beast for her skills at shutting things down but may now be perceived as a beauty.
She got where she got by facing up to who she was and what that meant about how much harder she had to work and how much longer she had to keep going and how much less she had to hope for even when she was hoping for everything.
Beauty is an old-fashioned feel good story and for someone who has questioned where all the good middle-aged women in fiction have gone, it is a fun read. The hook (no pun intended) is straightforward: hardworking people of a certain age falling by the wayside in an economy that’s looking for young and cheap. For those of us in the seasoned employee years this kind of story reads well. It may not be chock full of surprises but Dillen creates a cast and plot the reader can invest in.