Breathe In, Cash Out by Madeleine Henry
Published by Atria Books
Publication date: July 9, 2019
Genres: Debut, Fiction, Humor, New Adult
Breathe In, Cash Out is fast and furious summer reading. Allegra is a second-year analyst at a large investment bank. It’s a soul-sucking experience, lived solely for the purpose of being able to cash out into something bigger and more lucrative after time served. But that’s not what Allegra wants. No, she wants to be a yoga instructor and get as far away from the venal world of finance as possible. She wants to Om her way to her best life. Author Madeleine Henry actually worked at Goldman Sachs (bless her heart) and survived, so there is no disputing the authenticity of Allegra’s life—or lack thereof. She works 100+ hours a week and is held to impossible deadlines and demands from superiors whose only goal seems to be to jerk around the people beneath them.
I loved the detailed descriptions of Allegra’s job because I worked for a private equity firm for four years. Not as an analyst and not in NYC so no direct comparisons, but on a macro level, the hustle and hyper-inflated sense of urgency felt familiar. Beyond that, though, the plot has some odd choices. In the opening pages, Allegra sleeps with a man who turns out to be one of her new bosses. That would seem to be something that leads to tension or twists, but nothing ever comes of it. Then, towards the end Allegra gets into a situation that is flat-out ludicrous and unnecessary. It’s eye-roll territory and added nothing new to the story.
I’d call Breathe In, Cash Out contemporary fiction mostly because Henry uses the f word as a comma. Yes, swearing is like breathing in the testosterone laden world of finance, but even so, it’s a bit much. Almost as if she was told she’d get a dollar every time she dropped an f bomb. Having said all that, the story is still good enough that I wanted to know what happens. Henry writes bitter and snarky like a pro—a trait I always appreciate in my fiction. The novel also wins for not falling into the chick-lit trap. It has its place, but I liked that the pursuit of a man or relationship was not on Allegra’s mind. Her own life was and for a woman in her late 20s, that’s great. This is not reading that’s going to change your life or even stick with you past the last page, but it’s funny and entertaining and sometimes that’s exactly what’s needed.