Jul 27, 08
moms, particularly stay at home moms
Read in July, 2008
If I could, I would give this three and a half stars. Very mixed feelings about this one. First of all, this is the first Meg Wolitzer book I've read and I think she's a brilliantly talented writer. Her sentences are like works of art, and she captures characters and life moments with such precision it's almost painful.
The book chronicles four upper middle class Manhattan women friends in their late 30s/early 40s, all of whom have given up their careers (some high-powered, some not) to stay home and raise children. Each of them have hit the decade mark in their stay-at-home careers (hence the title) and are somewhat consumed by self doubt, aimlessness, and guilt. The protagonist, Amy, befriends a working mother who's in the midst of a torrid extramarital affair; the affair and the Amy's preoccupation with her new cheatin' friend causes a ripple effect of conflict and controversy amongst the circle of friends. Along the way Wolitzer examines a sea of peripheral characters as well, including the women's husbands, mothers, and a handful of female acquaintances.
Wolitzer's explorations of so many characters is what kept me from giving the book a higher rating. This is just personal preference on my part - I love delving into a few characters instead of getting samples of a lot of characters. She also uses flashbacks quite liberally, which I always find a bit jarring as a reader, especially if I'm particularly riveted by a lead character's current situation, as I was with Amy's.
The themes, Wolitzer's ability to capture wife-and-motherhood in all its monotony and tedium hits almost too close to home. Also, I think Wolitzer is making a final judgment (though subtle, which I give her a lot of credit for) about a woman's decision to stay at home and raise children, and the judgment is a negative one. She is quietly critical of, though sympathetic to, the lot of a woman who puts her career on hold (or abandons it) to focus on her family and household. Ouch. A particularly rough, though insightful, conclusion for a reader who happens to be a stay-at-home mom.