True confession: I have never worked retail. But reading Discount by Casey Gray has given me much more of respect for those who have and do. They say that reading fiction will help bolster your empathy and become attuned to new perspectives, and for those like me who have not worked retail, you should read this book. You just gotta be able to withstand a dead body in an RV parked outside the Superstore.
Discount is literally a day in the life of employees, customers, and related folks of Superstore, a stand-in for presumably Wal-Mart. There’s a lot of characters in this book, and thank goodness for the handy character chart because I found myself referring to it several times throughout the book. If you’re enjoy books with a wide, dizzying ensemble of a cast, Discount is for you. The characters were interesting, diverse, and represented POVs from all parts–the employees, the managers, the customers, and occasionally related characters to employees and/or customers. I enjoy reading about a variety of people, and this book definitely fulfilled that.
The structure of the novel was what I liked best about Discount. It wasn’t your typical A-plot, B-plot, work to the climax, bam book’s over. The story is told over a period of 24 hours from multiple and numerous viewpoints, hence the usefulness of the aforementioned character chart. At times, it was a wee confusing as I had to think to myself “wait, who is so and so again?” but overall, the 24 hour device mostly worked well.
I say mostly because toward the end, the circumstances of one of the characters is left incredibly unclear. The novel’s structure definitely had a hand in this, because the way it’s told over a 24 hour time span, the details of the situation haven’t been released in “real-time.” You learn about the aftermath of the circumstances, but how it all came about was not super explicit.
Reading Discount also reminded me that my colleagues and I have pretty good jobs–we can take our breaks on our schedule, we don’t have to wait for others to return to take breaks, etc. My privilege is really stinkin’ obvious and I feel like a bit of a dolt for pointing out “hey! I don’t have it so bad!” but either way, it’s true. I could see where if you’re a seasoned retail employee, Discount might strike too close to home, but for other folks, it’s definitely a great example of fiction being enlightening.
The other thing I noticed about the book was how vivid CG writes about bodily functions and bodies in general. I thought this writing style tied in well with the story’s concept because how I interpreted the Superstore was that despite any managerial claptrap that says otherwise, employees are just bodies to get the work done and keep the customers happy.
Oh, that dead body I mentioned? Well, you’re just gonna have to read Discount if you want to find out!