Sophie Landgraf is not a Master of the Universe. When we first meet her in Laura Hemphill’s Buying In, Sophie emerges from beneath her desk after a nap and goes crawling about the offices of her investment banking firm, snooping in her co-workers’ desk drawers. It’s two in the morning, and Sophie, a lowly, overworked analyst, hasn’t seen her boyfriend for days. Not only that, but she doesn’t even have the comfort of making a lot of money. Her overpriced dump on Amsterdam Avenue in Manhattan eats up half of her salary. Her goodhearted boyfriend Will is in even worse shape; his parents pay his rent. Both of them might be better off than Sophie’s widowed dad, whose mortgage just went up by $1,000 a month. Vasu, the junior of Sophie’s two bosses, is terrified of being sacked, despite being a good worker. The senior boss, the coldly efficient Ethan, has his own demons. The real kicker: The tale begins in late 2007, not long before the beginning of the Great Recession.
What Sophie, Vasu and Ethan do share is that they’re working—and working and working some more—on the merger of two aluminum companies. For this, and the nebulous promise of a fat bonus, they will toil through the holidays, shrug off as many obligations to friends and family as they can get away with and basically become a band of predators. Vasu, for example, doesn’t dare tell Ethan that he stopped on the way to a diligence meeting in India to perform funeral rites for his mother. He’s pleased to let Ethan believe that his shorn head is a fashion statement. On the other hand, becoming a predator-in-training has an allure for Sophie. Check out how she bigfoots a co-worker, then pops her lips in the ladies’ room mirror after applying a layer of (pilfered) power lipstick. Sophie’s not just leaning in; she’s buying in.
At the end, the reader has a strong suspicion that there could be a sequel to Buying In; we’re not through with these characters yet. It’s a testament to Hemphill’s talent that we want more, a lot more, of them.