From The Corner of the Oval by Beck Dorey-Stein – Book Review

I received an advanced copy of this book from Netgalley and publishers Spiegel & Grau in exchange for an honest review.  This book releases July 10, 2018.

Beck Dorey-Stein accepts the position as President Obama’s stenographer just as the campaign for his second term starts to heat up.  She leaves the position shortly after President Trump moves into the White House.  In between those two bookends of history, she attends President Obama’s speeches, addresses, campaign stumps and  travels on Air Force One with the presidential team.  She was self-aware enough to realize that this was a dream job and the things that she was seeing were once-in-a-lifetime opportunities and situations.

The book is extremely readable and Beck is a very good writer in that it reads as an entertaining book of fiction rather than nonfiction.  She kept copious amounts of notes during her time in this position so that she would have a record of everything that she saw and experienced and she cherished the times she actually got to spend with President Obama and the friends that she made at work.

While I was reading this book, it was impossible not to get that “good feeling” of what it used to be like when President Obama was in charge – that inclusivity, dignity and hope that he managed to convey whenever he spoke and it is hard to imagine what those incredible times must have felt like by the people working for him.  Beck does a tremendous job conveying that excitement and honour.

Now, to the part of the book that I thought diminished her story and the part she played in the Obama administration.  When Beck accepted the position, she was dating Sam, however, it wasn’t very long after she started working at the White House that she began an affair with a staffer, Jason.  Jason also had a girlfriend who lived in California.  Not only did Jason have a girlfriend and Beck on the side, he was also on the prowl continually for other conquests.  It is not my job to judge their actions but I am going to judge how much of the book was devoted to this affair that was on-again/off-again at Jason’s whim.

At one point in the book, Beck states “Lying in my bed that night, I look at the stacks of notebooks I’ve kept since starting this job and realize that my own life is in the margins, Sam and Jason take up most of the lines”.  She certainly got that right as so much of this book was her describing all the drama that comes with affairs and broken hearts.

I felt like all the drama of the affair overpowered the point of the book which I thought was to be an inside view of what it was like to be on President Obama’s team.  Instead, a good portion of this book was Beck crying over Jason; Beck crying over Sam; Beck drunk because Jason was ignoring her; Beck drunk because she was happy that Jason was paying attention to her that night; Beck sobbing when Jason dumped her etc., etc., etc……..

I am disappointed that I cannot give this book more than three stars because when Beck is busy describing her work and experiences that came with her job, it reads like a five star book.  I just wish she had seriously downplayed all the young adult angst.

Thank you to Netgalley and the publishers for an advanced copy of this book for review.

From the Corner


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