Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on February 17th 2015
Genres: Contemporary Women, Fiction, Literary
I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange honest review consideration. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
A year has passed since Ari gave birth to Walker, though it went so badly awry she has trouble calling it “birth” and still she can't locate herself in her altered universe. Amid the strange, disjointed rhythms of her days and nights and another impending winter in upstate New York, Ari is a tree without roots, struggling to keep her branches aloft.When Mina, a one-time cult musician — older, self-contained, alone, and nine-months pregnant —moves to town, Ari sees the possibility of a new friend, despite her unfortunate habit of generally mistrusting women. Soon they become comrades-in-arms, and the previously hostile terrain seems almost navigable.
Honestly. I’m not sure how to feel about this one. My overwhelming feelings are negative. But at the same time I’m a feminist that wants to accept feminists of all stripes.
However. This is not a book that accepts all women as women. For me the protagonist of this novel seemed to encourage the ‘mommy-wars’ rather than bring us all into a warm and hugging sisterhood. There are looooonngggg passages about the evils of a C-section and the horrors of feeding your infant formula.
NEWSFLASH! C-Sections save lives. Lives of women and children. Formula. Christ. Not every mother has the ability to breastfeed — even if they want to. I’m prone to severe depression both as myself and through family history. PERSONALLY it was more important to me, my mental health – which thus affected the health of my infant to be sane rather than to breastfeed. So I chose formula… and I don’t feel even a little bad about that. But I felt like this novel attempted to make women who had to have C-sections or chose not to breastfeed to feel bad about it… and to me, that’s not what feminism is about.
To paraphrase Amy Pohler in Yes Please, those things are GREAT FOR OTHER WOMEN but NOT FOR ME. I support, encourage, and cheer on women who want natural home-births, to breastfeed their children until they are seven, and all the other attachment-parenting/”the way things were” stuff. But it’s not for me. Again, I won’t feel poorly about that. Again, this book felt like it was trying to make me feel just that.
There are passages that criticize second and third wave feminists… really? Maybe I missed a deeper meaning and irony in the book — but to me women are women and feminists (however trite the saying may become) are just people who want to see women as equal participants in society.
Let’s talk about the writing. Stream of consciousness can be amazing. (See: Faulkner) But Faulkner, Albert is not. Instead the writing becomes confused and convoluted, which takes away from whatever power the narrative may have. Instead it becomes a distraction and an irritation.
Between the failed attempt at stream of consciousness and the too narrow “feminist” message I was totally turned off.
Lord. In the first draft of this review I was so disappointed by what I didn’t like about this book that I forgot to mention what I did like about it. I completely related to the rage that Ari felt after giving birth, the disconnected-ness to Walker, the lack of female friendships. I liked the way that Albert portrayed the (in my opinion, correct) idea that it takes a village to raise a child. The wet-nursing did not freak me out in the least.
Have you been recently disappointed by a book whose politics you thought you agreed with, Reader?