Sarah Cler's Reviews > The Ten-Year Nap

The Ten-Year Nap by Meg Wolitzer
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's review
Jul 27, 2008

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Recommended for: 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.
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message 1: by Peter (new)

Peter Good review. In a nutshell, how is she critical of stay-at-home moms? Who would win in a cage match...Wolitzer or Dr. Laura? :)

Sarah Cler Hm...well, to be fair, she's really making a commentary on the pointlessness of being a stay at home mom once the kids are beyond the preschool/early school years. She makes several references to the explanations SAHMs can use when they're taking care of toddlers/babies and are asked "What do you do?" Society seems to "get" that very young kids are a full time job (though I would argue that even SAHMs with little kids are still sometimes given a hard time).
Basically, my interpretation of Wolitzer's opinion is that once her kids are older, a stay at home mom is stuck in a bubble, this little fantasy world totally unconnected to real life, and that her education, talents and professional skills are going to waste. The outside world, after ten years "off," becomes a scary and distasteful prospect to her and she finds a certain comfort but also self-loathing in being "just" a wife and mother.
A great line in the book: "Work doesn't make you interesting. INTERESTING work makes you interesting."

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