Wednesday, March 11, 2009

A literary foray into an ongoing conflict

The Mommy Wars, the battle about how women should think about motherhood, self-actualization, work and many other topics, have raged for years. The majority of works in the genre take a stand about how women (and often their husbands/partners/SOs) should act in this new era. In Meg Wolitizer's novel The 10-Year Nap, the author doesn't choose a side, but shows her characters wrestling with what do with their lives, while serving up a healthy dose of social observation.

The four women at the center of the story are long time friends, thanks partially to their children's attendance at a New York school. Thanks to motherhood, most but not all of them have changed their career and personal directions. Many of the women are torn by their impact of their decisions. The one who has moved to the suburbs can't bring herself to embrace them. One of them fixates on an adulterous couple to fill the gap created by the withdrawal of her son into teenage stony silence. Wolitizer is sympathetic to all the characters giving us a chance to understand their choices as well as the troubles they have brought.

While it is not the point of the book, I quite liked her skills as a social observer. Wolitizer creates a realistic social universe with alpha moms and dads, and even alpha kids. The characters gossip and fret about those they think have it better than they, although of course they often do not. She shows suburban moms with too much time on their hands creating greeting cards for kids to send to parents. She can also spin out such wonderful sentences as these: "The English walk among us, Amy thought, and whenever they reveal themselves, Americans experience a moment of unaccountable delight." So very true and so very well said.

Now, there are two groups of people who might not like this book. The first are Mommy Wars partisans. Something about this book will probably make you angry, as it doesn't take a side. The other are those people who tend to say things like "Oh, those whiny, rich New Yorkers with all their problems, boo hoo!" If you say things like that, you probably won't like this book, but then you might not like reflective literary fiction either.

Meg Wolitizer will be at Powell's Burnside tonight at 7:30 to discuss the book.

1 comment:

packey said...

I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.