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Books: I Don't Know How She Does It
Monday, 2004 June 28 - 12:20 am
Allison Pearson's I Don't Know How She Does It is a book that most people will either fail to appreciate, or appreciate for the wrong reasons.

Superficially, this book is a testament to the heroic efforts of working mothers, struggling to maintain a career in a patriarchal society, while simultaneously living up to the June Cleaver image of the ideal parent. If you were to only read the first few chapters, or if you looked at the blithely superficial review quotes on the back of the dust jacket, you might think that this is all there is to this book.

At first, the book seems so wrapped up in its "I do everything and no one appreciates me" message, it's easy to see how men might dismiss it as "Geez, this sounds like my wife whining", and how women might embrace it as "Geez, finally someone is speaking up for me". In either case, such a simplistic rendering would be a pity, because it might mean missing the real message... which I won't reveal to you, lest I spoil the story's ending.

It would also be a shame to miss the truly brilliant literary aspects of this book. It is chock full of clever allusions and wordplay. You won't find technique like this in your typical Michael Crichton pulp novel.

But for everyone, there is no escaping the heart-wrenching emotion that Allison Pearson is able to convey. It seeps into the writing the way emotion seeps into your head: in a roundabout way, triggered by everyday observations, connected to thoughts and memories. It's sadness and joy mixed together, it's shades of grey, it's the complexity that burdens all of us.

There are a number of people to whom I won't recommend this book, because it's unlikely they would get it. (That includes Newsweek reviewer Cathleen McGuigan, quoted on the back cover as saying: "I don't know a man on the planet who would get this book--or a woman who wouldn't." Umm, Ms. McGuigan, apparently, you didn't get this book, because if you did, you'd appreciate why I did.) But for those who are willing to invest the brainpower and look beneath the surface, I'd say it's well worth the effort.

Rating: 4.5 / 5
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Posted by Ken in: booksreviews


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