The Herd by Andrea Bartz
The Herd by Andrea Bartz
The name of the elite, women-only coworking space stretches across the wall behind the check-in desk: THE HERD, the H-E-R always in purple. In-the-know New Yorkers crawl over each other to apply for membership to this community that prides itself on mentorship and empowerment. Among the hopefuls is Katie Bradley, who’s just returned from the Midwest after a stint of book research blew up in her face. Luckily, Katie has an in, thanks to her sister Hana, an original Herder and the best friend of Eleanor Walsh, its charismatic founder.
As head of PR, Hana is working around the clock in preparation for a huge announcement from Eleanor—one that would change the trajectory of The Herd forever. Though Katie loves her sister’s crew, she secretly hopes she’s found her next book subject in Eleanor, who’s brilliant, trailblazing—and extremely private.
Then, on the night of the glitzy Herd news conference, Eleanor vanishes without a trace. Everybody has a theory about what made Eleanor run, but when the police suggest foul play, everyone is a suspect: Eleanor’s husband, other Herders, the men’s rights groups that have had it out for the Herd since its launch—even Eleanor’s closest friends. As Hana struggles to figure out what her friend was hiding and Katie chases the story of her life, the sisters must face the secrets they’ve been keeping from each other. From the author of The Lost Night comes a thrilling novel that shows just how dangerous it can be when women’s perfect veneers start to crack, crumble, and then fall away all together.
Alright, so the premise of this book is great, right? We follow the alternating narratives of sisters Hana and Katie. Hana is head of PR at her best friend Eleanor’s hot startup, The Herd. It’s an exclusive, women-only co-working space a la The Wing. Katie is a journalist looking for a big story–hoping her sister can help her get exclusive access to the very private Eleanor. On the morning of The Herd’s much-anticipated opening, Eleanor is nowhere to be found.
Lately I keep running into podcasts, TV shows, and articles exploring the intricacies of female empowerment spaces and the nuances of female friendships. This book seemed to fit in perfectly. And there’s a mysterious disappearance central to the story that drives the narrative forward? Sign me up!
Unfortunately, The Herd turns out to be barely worth my time. There is a strange distance in the way the two main characters–Hana and Katie–are portrayed. I just never felt that connected to either of them. Their personalities are drawn like vague sketches–journalist! PR agent! sister!–rather than real, physical people whose actions have consequences.
The story itself starts out exciting enough and tries its best to be juicy; more and more characters are added, each with a knotted history to one another that slowly untangles over the course of the novel’s 337 pages. When it ends, and everyone’s truth is out in the open, my attention had already gotten lost somewhere on page 180.
The first half of the book is fine enough, setting up backstory and slowly unearthing various tensions, secrets, and betrayals within the group. Past the halfway mark, though, I began to lose hope that I would ever begin to feel connected to any one character’s narrative. I kept reading it just to find out what happened and slowly lost any interest in the central mystery. In turn, the “shocking” ending–arguably the most gripping part of the book up to that point–failed to interest me.
It is neither page-turning thriller nor thought-provoking look at modern female relationships. It’s mostly just a good idea stretched out to novel length and flattened into mediocrity.
2 stars out of 5