It’s a woman’s world in Chandler Baker’s new novel, “The Husbands.”
The bestselling author of “The Whisper Network” is back with a new page-turner that asks what lengths will a woman go for a little more help from her husband?
Her new book follows Nora Spangler, a successful attorney and hardworking mother who goes the extra mile to take care of her family. But lately, Nora’s been exhausted and wishes her husband would do more without having to be repeatedly reminded.
When she and her husband go house hunting in Dynasty Ranch, an exclusive suburban neighborhood, Nora meets a group of high-powered women — a tech CEO, a neurosurgeon, an award-winning therapist, a bestselling author — with enviable supportive husbands, and she wants to find out how they’re making it work so well.
“There’s various other women in the neighborhood and all are quite impressive and let us think about what women would be able to contribute to the world if they weren’t so overwhelmed at home,” Baker told “GMA.”
Baker said she got the idea for “The Husbands” after “The Whisper Network” sparked conversation among women about how corporate culture for women could be improved. A common response, Baker said, was to see more women at the top of the corporate ladder, but another response was that women felt like they weren’t able to take on those roles.
“A lot of women were also saying it’s not always that I’m being offered the positions or that I’m not being given the opportunity to take on more responsibility,” said Baker. “It’s also that I’m opting out and putting myself on the so-called mommy track, or I’m going part-time because I’m so overwhelmed with my responsibilities at home that I don’t feel like I can possibly take on more responsibility at work.”
Like Nora in the book, Baker remembers feeling overwhelmed by the mental load of work and life as a new mom.
“There’s a lot of things I couldn’t have written if I wasn’t a working mom at a law firm pregnant with my first child and then my second child and just experiencing the challenges of that,” said Baker, who noted that at one point in her career she considered requesting a reduction in pay because she felt like she was failing both at work and at home.
“I wanted to do anything I could to sort of reduce that guilt,” she said.
Baker also touched on the added narratives aimed at women of “having it all,” which contribute to the load women carry each day.
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“I think that we, especially in the age of social media, are living in an era where there are so many narratives that are specifically marketed toward women. There’s the wellness narrative, the beauty narrative, even interior design … There’s the Pinterest mom narrative, and now we’ve got the girl boss narrative as well,” said Baker. “We’re expected to add a full-blown career success to that. And I think a lot of women feel that they’re being told that in order to feel fulfilled, they have to do all of these areas and succeed at all of them.”
After speaking with her friends who are also moms and going through the same challenges, Baker had the idea to flip the gender script of “Stepford Wives” as the genesis for “The Husbands” to explore modern-day marriage, dual-income families and new realities that a lot of couples face.
Baker, who is now working on the screenplay for “The Husbands” film starring Kristen Wiig, said she hopes her book allows couples to understand each other and how to best work together at home with kids as a team.
“I hope it also gives people the vocabulary to talk with their spouses and to talk at home to understand some of the more varied inequities that are happening and why they are making you feel a certain way at home so that you can better confront them,” she added.
“The Husbands” is available now wherever books are sold. Get your copy here and read an excerpt here.
See more of our conversation below for some of Baker’s book recommendations:
What was the last book you read?
The last book I read was “Fierce Little Thing” by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore. It’s about cults during the summer and old friends and who would you hide a dead body for, that kind of thing.
What was the book that inspired you to become a writer?
I started as a YA writer and Lauren Oliver’s “Before I Fall” was really formative for me. I really loved that I hadn’t seen a character that was not necessarily likeable, but yet so relatable to how I felt in high school. So I just love that one. And then before I wrote adult books, I love Liane Moriarty. I loved “What Alice Forgot,” and then “Big Little Lies.” After that, “The Husband’s Secret.” And I thought that those all really encouraged me to try my hand at writing adult books.
What are three books on your TBR list this summer?
I am really excited about “Razorblade Tears” by S.A. Cosby. I’m very excited about that. I’m very excited about the new Liane Moriarty book, “Apples Never Fall” … And then I’m very excited about Kimberly McCraight’s new book, “Friends Like These.” I have read all of her books and I just can’t wait for a new one.
Who is an author that people should know about?
Kevin Wilson. I’ve been going back and reading some of his older books. He wrote “The Family Fang” and “Nothing to See Here,” and I think “Nothing to See Here” is just one of the most brilliant books I’ve ever read. And a lot of people have read it, but I still don’t understand why people aren’t like shouting it from the rooftops as one of the most amazing books ever.
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