Synopsis from publisher:
For a group of four New York friends the past decade has been defined largely by marriage and motherhood, but it wasn't always that way. Growing up, they had been told that their generation would be different. And for a while this was true. They went to good colleges, and began high-powered careers. But after marriage and babies, for a variety of reasons, they decided to stay home, temporarily, to raise their children. Now, ten years later, they are still at home, unsure how they came to inhabit lives so different from the ones they expected-until a new series of events begins to change the landscape of their lives yet again, in ways they couldn't have predicted.
This was a very interesting book for me. It's something I think about quite a lot, and a discussion that comes up among my all-female coworkers fairly frequently. There is the guilt of the mothers who feel like they don't ever get to see their kids because they work all the time. And there is the guilt of the moms who stay home, but feel like they don't do enough to "contribute". It's a sad, sad guilt game, and this book had a lot to say about both sides of this issue.
Amy, Jill, and Roberta all have basically good lives. They have husbands who love them, kids who are well-behaved, and the freedom to do what they want. They also all experience a vague, somewhat distant feeling of dissatisfaction with their lives. Each of them were somewhat ambivalent about their careers before having children, so dropping out of work to take care of their babies was a fairly easy decision. Now, ten-ish years later, each woman is wondering if she made the wrong decision.
It is, at times, difficult to feel sympathetic for these three women. They are, after all, in the place they have arrived at due to decisions they each made. And, really, there are a lot of women who don't have the luxury of not working, who would say that these three don't have a lot to complain about. But Wolitzer manages to allow them to air their feelings of discontent without sounding whiny, and I found I could imagine and relate to the reasons why their lives have taken them someplace they didn't intend to go.
Wolitzer has a fairly obvious opinion on the subject she writes about, and at times it feels like she is whacking the reader over the head with that opinion. But she also infuses the novel with humor, and poignancy, that keep it from becoming to preachy or stern. She also intersperses the modern-day narrative with glimpses from the past, about the decisions each woman's own mother had to face about working or staying home. These short chapters were a nice break from the more somber tone of the rest of the novel.
The "Mommy Wars", as it has sometimes been called, is not an issue that will be resolved overnight. What seems clear is that women are made to feel guilty no matter which choice they make. While we certainly have come a long way, and the ability to choose to work is important, this novel shows that we still have quite a long way to go.
Source: FSB Associates