Book Review: I Don’t Know How She Does It

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How many times have you heard the phrase, how do you do it? All around us, it seems to be the question of the decade. I hear it from my mother, my best friend, my boss, strangers. But it’s an annoying question, isn’t it? Because this is what it implies: you have a totally crazy life and you’re always running around, frazzled, multi-tasking, forgetting things, swallowed in the chaos of your life. How do you manage? Well, really, what’s the right answer?

British writer Allison Pearson attempts her version of the answer in her book, I Don’t Know How She Does It. And it’s a page-turner. Better yet, it’s a laugh-out-loud page-turner. Now, this is not a new book. In fact it’s so old, Pearson just released a new one – I Think I Love You. So really, I should be reviewing the new one. But unless you’re living under a rock, you might have noticed that Pearson’s first book has just been made into a major motion picture starring Sarah Jessica Parker – shoving the book and this question back into the public eye.

So I thought it was a good time to remind all you mom readers that this is an awesome book. Much more awesome than the movie. Sarah Jessica Parker is just no match for Pearson’s main character, Kate Reddy, and not just because she’s British. The reason Kate is so loveable is that she is such a bloody mess. Just like the rest of us. Okay, like most of us. Celebrities like Sarah Jessica Parker may be messes too, but it’s hard to have the same empathy when there’s oodles of money and staff and success. It’s just not the same.

The book opens with the iconic and perfect movie scene of Kate trying to make store-bought mince pies (it’s a very British book) look homemade for her daughter’s Christmas party. Because Kate works 18 hours a day as a prominent hedge fund manager, she’s doing this at midnight when she should be sleeping.

Sound familiar?

I read this book when my kids were too young to be in school and I laughed at this opening scene. And yet, a few short years later, when I found myself taking cupcakes out of the store-bought packaging and putting them on a tinfoil tray to look homemade for my daughter’s school birthday party, I realized what I’d done and cried. Now, that’s the power of good fiction!

The thing is, this is the single best fiction novel I’ve ever read on modern moms juggling it all. Even with all the British references, it’s a universally relateable story about the impossible demands that moms face balancing our jobs, our children, our homes and our husbands. And riffing on a mother’s endless list of things to do, Pearson includes “lists” throughout the book – errands, reasons to give up work, reasons to move to the country – all laden with a large dose of humor.

Here’s a quick sample:

“Reasons to Give Up Work and Go and Live in the Country

1.     Better quality of life.

2.     Can buy mansion with en-suite minstrels’ gallery for cost of Hackney heap.

3.     Chance to be real mother who has time to love husband, learn secret of children’s hearts and discover how bloody buggy rain cover works.

Reaons Not to Give Up Work and Go and Live in Country

1.     Would go mad.

2.     See above.

3.     See above.”

I’m not sure I loved the affair she has with a work colleague (even though I know it’s realistic, based on my friend’s life experiences). Still, how many mothers are really able to throw themselves into an affair when they are absolutely overwhelmed with work and children and unhappy with their marriages? Okay. I take that question back. It still wasn’t the best part of the book.

The best part of the book being able to see inside the mind and life of a character just like you. And the best part about the release of the new movie is that now, when you get asked, “How do you do it?” instead of rolling your eyes, you can just say – watch the movie! (Check out the trailer below.)

Next Month’s Book: Three Stages of Amazement by Carol Edgarian

 

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