Start Reading

I Hope This Finds You Well by Natalie Sue

For fans of Office Space and Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine

Start Reading I Hope This Finds You Well by Natalie Sue, and enter for the chance to win a copy! On sale May 21st, 2024. Discover this book and more at

This Could’ve Been an Email

There will be questions. Ones I don’t have socially acceptable answers for. I know because today is my birthday, and a last-minute meeting has appeared on my calendar. A poorly disguised office cake party will be my supposed reward for turning thirty-three six and a half hours ago. Half the office will cram around a conference table, against our will, to eat dry sheet cake and force polite smiles.

The questions will be about my life and how I plan to celebrate. Answers: I don’t have a life, and I will likely celebrate by drinking alone and going down Reddit rabbit holes researching random and upsetting things like fecal-matter transplants, or the Golden State Killer, while making myself regret everything. I’m not sure that’s relatable, so I’ll say I’m having dinner with friends. Oh, the lies I am forced to tell just to fit in at the western regional office of Supershops Incorporated.

The meeting reminder flashes on my monitor again, persistent as a pesky cold sore. My fingers tingle, and I take a few slow breaths, but I can’t get air to settle in my lungs. So many office situations show no regard for people with anxiety, yet we’re the bad guys if we can’t cope.

I should just walk away from it all.

My eyes dart to the flimsy wall of my cubicle where my name card still faintly reads Jolene Smith after years of sitting beneath violently fluorescent lighting. Three pushpins pierce the industrial fabric; they’ve always been there, even though I’ve never felt the urge to pin anything up. My workspace remains bare and beige in a sea of personalized cubicles. Yet those pins sit reassuringly in their same formation, day after day.

And I don’t think I could ever leave them.

A new email appears in my inbox. It’s from Rhonda, whose official title is “lead accounting administrator,” but really she’s just our boss Gregory’s assistant, a role she’s held for a thousand years.

Reminder, I’ve booked you for a meeting in boardroom 435 that starts in one minute. You don’t want to be late.

This meeting has automatic reminders set up, yet she’s emailing me from seven feet away. I peer over the half wall of my cubicle toward hers, which boasts a shelf lined with an assortment of dusty trinkets, inspirational quotes printed on crinkled yellow paper affixed to the wall, and a file box I know is filled with medications, tea bags, and biscuits that expired in 2012. It’s as though she anticipates being trapped here one day and not only surviving the ordeal, but thriving.

I don’t mean to lock eyes with Rhonda; I blame her excessive eyeliner and the green eyeshadow that could direct traffic. She notices and breaks the stare first, lowering her head so I can see only the tips of her spiky grey hairdo. Then her mouse clicks, pointedly.

Technically, she’s to blame for this entire mess. She doesn’t usually pay much attention to me, and when she does it’s often paired with a scowl and a pointed gum-snap. But Rhonda runs the Morale Boosters Club, and with Brendan Fraser as my witness, there’s nothing more demoralizing than the Morale Boosters Club. Her morbid obsession with birthday tracking, cake buying, and forcing people to sit through off-key renditions of the “Happy Birthday” song can’t be out of love.

Planning these thirty-minute-long office parties and telling people about the mundane interactions she’s had with service people are central features of her personality, but her primary passion is her “grown-ass son,” whom she visits every weekend. He’s some rich dick who supports her. In her eyes, he is on the brink of curing all human ailments, keeps the transit running on time, and has about a million matches on Tinder. Although, judging by the framed picture of him on her desk, he could be the stock model used in advertisements for plain bread and mayo.

I keep my expression deadpan as I turn back to my keyboard and type:

Hello Rhonda,

Thanks very much for reminding me about the meeting. I must say, your reminder is so much more personal and well received than the default one that the computer gives. I almost feel that one is pointless when I’ve got you in my corner.

Best regards,


Adding extra sugar to the part that’s visible helps make the invisible part so much more satisfying. I change the font to white and type the stuff that’s just for me:

P.S. Deep in my core, I find you insufferable. There are times, when you’re on the phone fake laughing or retelling someone the same story about your toenail surgery, that make me consider joining a cult as a preferable alternative to staying here with you. Also, I’m fairly certain you can’t legally brag about your son since you named him “Carl.”

As I click send, I halt my breath. The rush of adrenaline hits as a flutter in my abdomen. It’s a safe high, since she won’t actually see the message. The knot in my chest loosens. This is truly the second-best coping mechanism to survive the peril that is my colleagues.

I creak out of my chair to begin the walk to the boardroom. Rhonda’s shimmery nails continue to clack across the keyboard as she peeps up at me from beside the corner of her screen. I smile politely in her general direction.

As I pass behind Caitlin’s desk, the scent of the vanilla-icing hand cream she applies seventeen times daily wafts my way, microdosing my irritation. The same scent always transfers to the documents and envelopes she handles, like a dog marking her territory. She tilts her chin toward me and gives this little brow raise but doesn’t look directly at me. Something uncertain bubbles in the pit of my chest. She’s been watching me all day, and I trust her less than my recommendations.

Caitlin and I have worked adjacent to each other for three years in the same admin role. We were destined to be best friends, but because of who we are as people, our years of forced proximity have instead culminated in a specific form of petty hatred. The problem is Caitlin tries way too hard. She’s still talking about how this job is a “jumping-off point” for her to step into a larger role at Supershops, while I gave up on that notion after less than a year here. Her violations include: cc’ing Gregory when she notices any of my errors “in case it becomes a relevant pattern” (which is a good point, and I’ve made sure to include him when calling out her numerous mistakes too), forgetting to add my mug when she runs the dishwasher (I can never find space for hers either), and interrogating me when her yogurt goes missing from the office fridge (as if blueberry Dannon is something I’d mess with). It’s reached a healthy point where our only communication is via curt emails, and we gleefully mix up anything the other sends to the printer. It’s unfortunate because I like to think I support my fellow women in the office, or at least I stay out of their ways as much as everyone else.

More lifeless eyes seem to pull toward me from each cubicle I pass. I curl my arms around myself, to limit how much I’m perceived. I catch my reflection in a glass door and jolt at my frizzy brown hair and puffy eyes. I may be entitled to compensation for that. It’s not that I’m a terrible-looking person, but I haven’t slept well this week, and I always seem to look my worst when I don’t expect myself.

It’s not like I care about making a great impression here. This is not one of those cool places to work with free snacks or standing desks or nap pods. My office is sort of like a recent time capsule. If someone wanted to travel seven to nine years into the past, they could come view our poster of men eating lunch on a plank, the fax machine still plugged into the wall, and the sagging yoga ball chairs. We politely ignore the decade-old coffee stains on the industrial carpeting near Larry’s coffeemaker and the fact that Larry sleeps here a few times a year.

When I reach the dusty bird of paradise plant that Rhonda snuck into the office five years ago that’s both plastic and dying, a familiar dread sets in. I take a breath and open the door to the boardroom.

Excerpt from I Hope This Finds You Well, Copyright © 2024 by Natalie Sue. All rights reserved.

I Hope This Finds You Well will be available in bookstores across Canada and online on May 21, 2024

Enter for your chance to win a copy of
I Hope This Finds You Well by Natalie Sue

Enter for your chance to win a copy of I Hope This Finds You Well by Natalie Sue