Friday, March 28, 2008

Book notes: The Ten-Year Nap, by Meg Wolitzer

For what it's worth, the New York Times book section has a feature article on a novel starring upper-middle-class women who decide to stay home to raise their kids. From Writing About Women Who Are Soccer Moms Without Soccer, by Motoko Rich, March 25, 2008:

It’s got hot-button issues written all over it, all right. But Ms. Wolitzer, 48, sidestepped the polemical debate that has characterized many nonfiction contributions to the motherhood genre.

“I’m not writing the Big Book o’ Motherhood and Work,” said Ms. Wolitzer, who has been a working writer since she was 23 and now has two children, Gabriel, 17, and Charlie, 13, with her husband, Richard Panek, also a writer.

What she wanted, she said, was to capture the nuances of characters who happened to have children and happened not to work.

Some of them miss their jobs; some don’t. Some feel guilt; others don’t. Amy Lamb is a former lawyer who worries constantly about money. Jill Hamlin once pursued a career in academia and then in film, but now stays at home and worries that she doesn’t connect with her adopted daughter. Roberta Sokolov, who once wanted to be an artist, is jealous of her husband, who, after years of slogging in a pays-the-bills job, lands a gig running a children’s puppet show.

All the women have thoughts likely to have readers nodding vigorously in recognition.

Before she began the novel, Ms. Wolitzer confessed, she judged those mothers who stayed home full time. But as she wrote, she realized that paid work wasn’t always fulfilling.

“The notion that everyone has a calling, that everyone has a talent, that everyone has a passion, isn’t true,” said Ms. Wolitzer, whose graying curly hair and laugh lines betray her age, but whose baggy leather jacket and battered brown leather satchel recall her years as a writing student. “I didn’t understand that.”

All right, I'd like to quibble with the attitudes in that last paragraph, and I'm a bit concerned that a book about a group of women doing ten-year stints at fulltime motherhood is called "The Ten-Year Nap," but at least the New York Times is quoting somebody who noticed (however late in life) that paid work isn't necessarily all it's cracked up to be, and that different women have different priorities and goals.

From the article, I'm not sure if the book is what we'd consider 'family-friendly,' in more ways than one, but I hope it's at least an icebreaker amongst the 'a smart women is letting the sisterhood down if she doesn't devote herself to a fancy career' set. I've had enough of their fang-baring at women not in their clique, haven't you?

1 comment:

Barb, sfo said...

Interesting! I will take a look at this book.

My quibble with that last quoted paragraph is that I DO think that motherhood and homemaking is my passion, talent and vocation. The author seems to imply that this is not possible/acceptable. But I'll give the book a chance.

As to smart women letting the "sisterhood" down, isn't it a GOOD thing that smart women are doing some child-raising?