Since it was announced months ago that this book was to appear, I’ve been counting the days till I got my hands on it. I’ve put it on several lists and in many blog posts. More to the point, ever since fictional, working mother Kate Reddy appeared in the now-classic I Don’t Know How She Does It and struck a blow with her rolling pin for guilt-ridden working moms everywhere, I’ve been a fan of this author. Then I found I Think I Love You and fell in love with her writing all over again. Now, this long-awaited sequel that hits me squarely where I live–albeit with early 20-something kids. It’s still the fabled sandwich life though–my Mom aging and needing more help, kids not being independent enough or motivated enough to live independently without me forcing it.
It’s seven years since Kate left her high-powered job in the City [That’s the British version of Wall Street] and a lot has changed. The kids are now teenagers. Kate and Richard, once so happy, have drifted apart. Kate is in the 5th circle of female hell known as peri-menopause. Richard has lost his job, is retraining to be a therapist, and won’t have a paying job for at least two years. So, it’s back to work for Kate.
Apparently she totally dropped the face of the working Earth into motherhood. In seven years she managed to do only the sort of consulting jobs a Junior Achievement-Prize-Winner could handle. She didn’t even start a blog! So, she spends time at a Women’s Support Group where she makes a good friend but learns of no job leads. Finally the right conversation with the right old colleague and Bam! she’s back at her old firm as a junior on the team managing the fund she created. All is well but she lied about her age to get the job.
Meanwhile the kids are doing predictable things like posting a zillion duck-face selfies (Emily) on social media and being addicted to video games (Ben). Then worse happens. And both sets of aging parents need a lot of help. They’re high maintenance and up in Yorkshire where she and Richard are from. Naturally, there’s a sister on the Dole [welfare] of course to provide class-based humor.
Once lovely Richard spends his time training for bike races and can’t stop talking about his therapy colleague Jody/Joelee [I had the audio] who has gotten him into healthy everything including tofurky–that vegan turkey substitute, and teas that taste like old grass. He never seems to be around–always working on a retreat or something with Jody/Jolee, but Oxbridge educated, super Hedge-Hogger Kate does not see the obvious. Well, they do say the wife is always the last….
With her hormones going crazy Kate can’t stop thinking about the super-charged American business guy (from the first book) whom she met but didn’t sleep with and subsequently changed her email address to avoid all these years.
What I Loved
I absolutely HOWLED reading about the “event” at her first client meeting. Oh my! Oh my been there!! Oh my, my, my, my, my. That is the rolling pin moment of this time of life!!!! It is the moments like this one that makes me love Allison Pearson’s books.
Kate is every mom as she has to find soccer gear and make dinner and re-write her daughter’s essay and clean up after the dog because somehow, no one else noticed a Labrador’s pile at the back door. Reading how Kate copes with the daily stuff reassured me that I was just like her and she could run a hedge fund for heaven’s sake!
What I Didn’t Like
While even the happiest of marriages can and do implode I thought marital problems as a story line was simply an easy way to work some silly stuff into the book with Richard’s therapy course, his cycling obsession and Jolee/Jody’s herbal everything. Yes, people get tired and quit caring, but this was a cliche.
Kate’s motherly devotion makes her miss another crisis, this time with Emily. But this story line was also too easy, too cliched too easy of a story line–too cliched for the socioeconomic class of this family. And then, just as suddenly as it started, it was totally fixed. Right.
I thoroughly enjoyed most of this book so much, but the end turned into an upper-class Sactimommy sermonizing on all the bad stuff (video games, social media, unrealistic body images) before boarding the plane for Fantasy Island. A good editor would have dealt with this.
So, there you have it. A review as long as the book!
In spite of this–a MUST READ for Moms of a certain age. You’ll be glad you did. Book clubs should actually have a few people read the book when this one is assigned. Be sure to serve wine and ghastly herbal teas.