Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Julie's Review: The Ten-Year Nap

Summary: In her latest novel, Wolitzer (The Wife; etc.) takes a close look at the opt out generation: her cast of primary characters have all abandoned promising careers (in art, law and academia) in favor of full-time motherhood. When their children were babies, that decision was defensible to themselves and others; 10 years on, all of these women, whose interconnected stories merge during their regular breakfasts at a Manhattan restaurant, harbor hidden doubts. Do their mundane daily routines and ever-more tenuous connections to increasingly independent children compensate for all that lost promise? Wolitzer centers her narrative on comparisons between her smart but bored modern-day New York and suburban mommies and the women of the generation preceding them, who fought for women's liberation and equality. Contemporary chapters, most of which focus on a single character in this small circle of friends, alternate with vignettes from earlier eras, placing her characters' crises in the context of the women, famous and anonymous, who came before. Wolitzer's novel offers a hopeful, if not exactly optimistic, vision of women's (and men's) capacity for reinvention and the discovery of new purpose.

Review: I was excited to read The Ten-Year Nap, it sounded excellent and a different way to approach the issues concerning today's women. It was a let down. I often felt like telling the women to "Shut up and do something about it". I just can't handle complaining when people do nothing to change their situation. You don't like it, try to fix it!! The main characters were flat and not really likable. I just didn't care about where their lives took them.

I thought that the writing was wordy and at times said nothing at all. I think Ms. Wolitzer got caught up in trying to write a book about the affects of feminism from a fiction point of view and ended up not really saying anything at all. Yes women in today's society have more choice and yes it's because of what women did in the 70's but I'm not sure that the stories told in this book were all that powerful.

The main character, Amy was bored and lonely and so she lived vicariously through another mom's life who seemed to have it all. Jill, was dealing with the fact that she didn't have motherly instinct, Roberta was living with the disappointment of never realizing her full potential as an artist and Karen, frankly her life seemed fine. She seemed like the most well adjusted of them all. I don't think that all "stay at home mom" (I dislike that term because who really stays at home?) are bored and unhappy, which is what I thought this book painted a picture of. Sure they are out there but I don't think it's an epidemic. She painted some of husbands as money loving whores which isn't necessarily true. I think a lot of families give up a great deal and gain a great deal when a mother chooses to stay at home. And maybe that's the whole point of Ms. Wolitzer's book...we have choices where we didn't before.

I'm not typically this harsh on a book (OK I was harsh with
The Rest of Her Life) but this book was such a disappointment and a waste of my time. I actually wish I could get my money and time back. My husband remarked that he was surprised I finished it.

Final Take: 2/5


lauraknight July 3, 2008 at 7:57 AM  

Just had to delurk to say that I felt many of the same things you did while trying to read this book. I say "trying" because I quit about 4 chapters in. I just couldn't read anymore. I was very disappointed.

I enjoy your blog. Thanks for sharing what you are reading.

Anonymous ,  July 7, 2008 at 11:58 PM  

I won this book from another blog. After reading your review and this comment, maybe I'll put the book at the bottom of the TBR list.

tinylittlelibrarian July 19, 2008 at 4:43 PM  

Hmmmm...interesting. I hadn't heard of this one, but I have read her The Position and thought it was rather weird. The characters seemed to complain and be unfulfilled there, too and blamed it on their parents publishing a sex manual. She seems to have a thing for telling us about the wonders of the 70's.

I think it we believed women's fiction, we'd think every stay-at-home mom was bored, unhappy, and unfulfilled. As you say, I'm sure there are some who feel that way (and there are lots of "working" moms who feel that way!), but come on - it's got to have *some* rewards, surely?!

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