Review: The Editor by Steven Rowley

Besides the fact that this book has an absolutely stunning cover, the premise caught my eye and I was intrigued enough to read it.

Jackie O is my favorite first lady. I don’t know a whole lot about her life and history, but I think she is one of the classiest first ladies we have had, she was a Catholic like me, and last but not least, I adore her style.

I had no idea that she was an editor at one point in her life, so seeing that in the pitch for this book pretty much sealed the deal for me. The other thing that I thought was really cool about this book pitch was that it included a letter from the author talking about the book. I was really moved by some of the things that he said were important to him in this book—-families, family relationships, mother-son relationships. Having a boy myself, I was even more excited to read this book after reading his letter!


After years of struggling as a writer in 1990s New York City, James Smale finally gets his big break when his novel sells to an editor at a major publishing house: Jackie Kennedy. Jackie, or Mrs. Onassis as she’s known in the office, has fallen in love with James’s candidly autobiographical novel, one that exposes his own dysfunctional family. But when the book’s forthcoming publication threatens to unravel already fragile relationships, both within his family and with his partner, James finds that he can’t bring himself to finish the manuscript.

With her shrewd drive and intuition, Jackie pushes James to write an authentic ending, encouraging him to head home to confront the truth about his relationship with his mother. But when a long-held family secret is revealed, he realizes his editor may have had a larger plan that goes beyond the page (summary from Goodreads).


One of my favorite things to tell my friends and family is, be careful, I might write you into my novel someday and I may or may not be very nice about it. As an aspiring writer myself, I have often thought about using my own family as a basis for a novel, but then thought better of it because of this exact situation that James faces in this book—how do you deal with the repercussions of putting your mother in a book in a most unflattering light? I found this aspect interesting and very compelling. It often made me think and I loved how introspective James was.

I also loved that the focus of the book wasn’t entirely on Jackie O. I mean she was a character in the story and all, but the focus was really about James’ relationship with his own mother which I thought was touching and beautiful. I loved seeing Jackie in a unique setting—in a setting that I would never have pictured her in, in fact—and I loved getting to know her. But the mother/son relationship in this book really shines through.

James’ story is relatable and I think lots of readers will see their own quirky family reflected in his autobiography within this story. I think that parental relationships are hard all around. Don’t get me wrong, I love my mother and father, but there are things that drive me insane about them and now that I am a mother I sit in absolute terror wondering at what point my son is going to discover that I have flaws like anyone else and then pick apart my own irritating quirks. So this story resonated with me in a big way all around.

I also loved the portrayal of the relationship between James and his partner Daniel and how that relationship was effected by James’ novel and relationship with his mother. Any couple—gay, straight etc—will relate to the struggles that James faces in this book.

While I loved a lot of aspects of this book, I did struggle at times with James. I often found him incredibly self absorbed which did wear on my after a while. Ultimately I went with a 4 star rating because of this.

Book Info and Rating

Hardcover, 320 pages
Expected publication: April 2nd 2019 by Putnam
ISBN 0525537961 (ISBN13: 9780525537960)
Free review copy provided by publisher, Putnam, in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and in no way influenced.
Rating: 4 stars
Genre: contempo lit



One thought on “Review: The Editor by Steven Rowley

  1. Nice review! I wish I loved this novel more because the premise was interesting. I completely agree with you about James’s self-absorption.

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