The Accidental Secretary
by Marsha Brandsdorfer


XLibris Corporation, 2007. ISBN 978-1-4257-7956-6.
Reviewed by Susan Ideus
Posted on 04/15/2008

Nonfiction: Memoir

As the title implies, the author never intended to be a secretary. While in college, Brandsdorfer was an English Literature and Writing major. She hoped to work in publishing or as a journalist. Upon her graduation from Queens College, however, she found it impossible to find a job in either of those fields due to her lack of experience. Finally, Brandsdorfer began working for a lawyer who hired her despite her absence of experience in the area of law. Thus began her journey through myriad law offices and companies, where she worked for over twenty years, gaining not only experience but the interesting material she writes about in her memoir.

The Accidental Secretary recounts the work environments in which the author found herself as her career progressed and the people she encountered in each. With an eye for detail, she describes each office and each city. From New York to California to New Orleans and back to California, she describes her surroundings and how they impacted her daily routine. In Los Angeles, for instance, transportation and heavy traffic determined where she lived and worked. In New Orleans, she describes the effect of a lack of jobs, low pay, and a depressed economy. Through the use of dialogue and by chronicling her thoughts, Brandsorfer offers the reader insight into her relationship with co-workers and friends.

In her often painfully honest accounts of finding and losing jobs, it was difficult to determine if Brandsdorfer actually found a calling or any contentment in the field of law. Was this a way of life she preferred, or was it simply the most expeditious because she gained experience there? I found myself hoping that she would find a way back to her original plan and build upon her English degree. It would seem that publishers and journalists also employ secretaries who might find the key to gain entrance into those fields. As she remarks in the prologue, "Sometimes life takes different paths than what we plan, when we are trying to make a living.'"

Ironically, in writing The Accidental Secretary, Brandsdorfer achieves her post-graduate dreams and becomes a part of the publishing world.


Marsha Brandsdorfer is a graduate of Queens College in New York, where she majored in English Literature and Writing. She has had a long career in the legal field as a secretary and legal assistant. A native of New York, she now resides in California.

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