I Hope This Finds You Well by Natalie Sue

Our carefully handpicked featured debut this month concerns work: its relentless irritations, its unexpected joys and the many little frustrations and tiny triumphs that fall between. If you’ve ever worked an office job, in fact, if you’ve ever worked a job that has involved colleagues – and that’s really an awful lot of them – if you’ve ever just wanted to get on with your job without having to involve yourself in the countless lives surrounding you, you’ll be delighted by Natalie Sue’s canny observations, and the humour and humanity of the work-culture tale she tells here.

When you’re reading and rereading that email you’re about to send to all your coworkers, what are you looking for, what are you worried about? Is it just that you want to get the tone right, that you want to be sure nothing can be misconstrued? Or is it that you’re convinced for some reason that embedded in this email is everything that you’re trying to keep hidden, that you’re about to communicate your innermost thoughts and resentments to everyone you work with?

Jolene works in admin for a large retailer. If she had her way, she would only interact with her colleagues – her useless, tiresome colleagues – when completely, professionally necessary. Her cubicle would be an inviolable space. But that’s not how workplaces work. Boundaries mean nothing to some people. And maybe it shouldn’t get under Jolene’s skin. But it does. So she’s come up with a way to covertly express her endless grievances. Maybe it is petty… then again, maybe it’s the only way she can cope.

It’s simple: each time a new frustration crops up, she writes furiously about it in an email postscript, then changes the text colour to white so no one can see it. It makes her feel better… until one of her hidden rants is discovered. And then it’s meetings and sensitivity training and restrictions and Cliff – the guy from HR who’s all brightness and amiability. But something goes wrong and somehow Jolene is granted access to every single email and DM in her department! Suddenly she’s slapbang in the middle of everybody’s private struggles and humiliating secrets. Sure, she could just not read them all. But, come on. Wouldn’t you?

When she finds out that a whole bunch of them are about to lose their jobs, including her, Jolene quickly realises that this mix-up could be the key to her survival. Here she should have everything she needs to convince the boss she’s indispensable and to clear things up with HR and Cliff – about whom she’s now learning (and feeling) a lot. All those boundaries she insists on are coming down, and now that she’s found herself in the thick of all these private worlds, perhaps it really is time to emerge from her cold and distant cubicle. Even if that means telling everyone the truth.

I Hope This Finds You Well begins as an office comedy, and on that score it is sparkling – packed with irresistibly hilarious dialogue and quick to sharply skewer the foolishness of your average workplace. But it quickly becomes something more than that. And as the characters reveal themselves in all their heart and their messiness, Natalie Sue reveals herself as a skilled, compelling and heartwarming writer who fully understands that the ridiculousness of work culture can just as easily foster real closeness.

Happy Reading!