Review: Ten Year Nap by Meg Woltzer

wolitzerbook_200Meg Wolitzer’s Ten Year Nap attempts to get at the universality of being a stay-at-home mom, with the title referring to the ten years that one of the main characters, Amy Lamb, a New York lawyer before she became a mom, has been at home with her son.   

Caution to those who are so far intrigued… this is no light-hearted chick lit.  It is a dense, slow read, with all the appropriate angst and immoderation of stereotypical New Yorkers.   That is the frustrating part of the novel.   But, (and this is a BIG BUT), if you can handle the complex writing and the whiney New York women, then you are in for some amazing and deeply felt insight into the human mommy heart (full disclosure:  I am a stay at home mom, with a former career, so the novel spoke personally to me on that level ).   

In reading this book, I have to imagine that Wolitzer’s words will somehow speak to almost every mom out there.  There are amazingly poignant passages:  a mom’s attachment to a newborn baby and how she couldn’t put her infant in day care, another mom’s flashback to her helpless preemie twins and her protectiveness even as they are older and healthy, the identity crisis of not knowing how to answer what it is that “you do.”   There are happy and unhappy marriages, and moms who are content to stay at home and those who are antsy and unsatisfied.   One of the friends has moved to the suburbs, some have a tough time making ends meet in the city, and one is very wealthy.  One of the four moms, who had some fertility problems and adopted a baby from Russia, struggles with her choices and seems to ignore her daughter’s signs of special needs.   Interwoven into the larger story are smaller chapters, flashbacks into the lives of other moms in past and present generations.   

Perhaps my only real negative with this book is that despite the fact that I, as the reader, was inside these characters’ heads, I still didn’t connect with them.  I knew their names, their former occupations, how they felt about their kids and spouses, how they grew up, etc.  But, somehow, (and I am not sure why) I walked away not feeling intimate with these women.   Maybe it was because I didn’t like most of these moms, and some I actually hated.  Maybe the darkish tone of the novel only gave me insight into their angst, and not their joys. 

But, what the novel does well is gives you a heaping spoonful of mommy-hood.  My guess is that many will find it slow and whiney.  For someone like me, who often misses my career life, I found such truth in some of the passage that I have to be glad I spent the extra time and energy to read this novel.   

This book was reviewed by my book club buddy, Elaine.  Thanks, Elaine! 

Reviewer Bio:  Elaine Legere is a stay-at-home mommy and part-time marketing consultant, after years of working for Disney, Palm (aka Palm Pilot), Los Angeles Times, and Details Magazine.  She received her BA at UCLA in English Literature and an MBA from University of Colorado. She is an avid reader, loves movies, and all things outdoors.

Guest Post: In Praise of Book Clubs, Vol. 19

In this 19th volume of In Praise of Book Clubs, we hear from Sarah of the terrific blog, The Last Book I Read.  Here she talks about the book club she formed with other stay at home moms in her area.

I started my book club a little over a year ago.  As a stay at home mom of a then almost two year old I was craving the company of other women during the day who could talk about something other than their kids.  I went to a playgroup which I enjoyed, but I wanted a playgroup for ME.  And, while I have other girlfriends that I swap books with and talk books with all the time, I needed something in person and I wanted something during the daytime.  I wasn’t looking to get out of the house, but I was looking for better conversation.

So, I asked a couple friends and I put up a little sign and soon enough we had a group of 4.  We try to meet once a month and whoever hosts the group at her house gets to pick the book and also lead the discussion.  When we meet the kids go off and play together while we get to talk about the book.  We’re pretty informal-don’t really have any rules and it’s agreed that if you haven’t finished the book that’s ok.

One of the things I like about our group is that I think we don’t have the same exact reading tastes.  We like enough of the same books that it’s not a chore to read the month’s book (well, that’s not exactly always true), but we’ve all also been pushed into trying new things.  I prefer to choose books that we haven’t read before but it often happens that someone chooses a book she’s read before and wants the others to try.

Some of our selections have been The Memory Keeper’s DaughterNights of Rain and StarsWhen Rabbit Howls, Captain Corelli’s MandolinBelong to MeThe RoadThree Junes, and The Ice Queen.

Although it was not my intent at all, something that has naturally occurred is that we often talk about how we responded to a book as a mother of a young child.  For example, in our conversation about The Memory Keeper’s Daughter* we all found the deception of telling a mother her child had died was practically unbearable to contemplate.  Since having kids I’ve found myself even more emotional about death/kids/families in novels than I used to be (and that’s saying something because I’m an easy crier at books.)  My book group has shown me that I’m not the only one who’s become so sensitive to those topics.  [Our upcoming discussion is about Belong To Me, during which I cried and cried at the friend’s death imagining myself dying with my children around me.]

*(I like to steer clear of Oprah books when it comes to my picks, but we’ve actually read quite a few of them.  I hate to admit it but they usually are really easy to talk about and universally liked by us. I just have a thing about reading what everyone else reads.)

As a YA librarian I wanted to introduce my friends to some YA lit and chose Speak for my first book.  I thought the discussion we had about this book was one of our best yet.  A YA buddy had suggested it as being a good one for women to discuss because no matter who we are or were it was likely we could all think back to being a teenage girl and feelings of isolation.  This proved to be true!  I am looking forward to introducing some more YA titles into our mix, perhaps some Sarah Dessen or Shannon Hale.  I also think maybe we should try some sci-fi or fantasy since that is a genre we haven’t yet discussed.

We’ve definitely had some flops.  Captain Corelli’s Mandolin was only read by one of us.  Two of us couldn’t get more than two chapters in.  When Rabbit Howls was so interesting in concept, but in reality nobody could get through it.  It was one of those books that you like someone to tell you about, but it turns out that that’s enough. And even though it’s topped book lists galore for the past two years not one of us liked Cormac McCarthy’s The Road.

Nickel and Dimed was another choice that really prompted conversation.  Truthfully, though, our conversation ended up being a lot more about what we thought about Ehrenreich, cleaning services, and the economy, and not so much about the book as a work of writing.  I think sometimes that happens with non-fiction choices– you don’t talk about it as a book per se, but just about the content.

Thanks to Lisa for inviting me to post about my book group.  I hope it encourages other stay at home moms to form their own groups!

Blogger Bio:  My name is Sarah, I’m a thirty-six year old young adult librarian, who is presently a stay-at-home mom. I have two children, aged  three and 9 months.  We live in central New Jersey in a beautiful area with lots of fields and farms.  I’ve been an avid reader since childhood.  I read a ton of ya books (hence, ya librarian), but I do like adult books too. I like historical romances, general fiction, and anything set in a boarding school! My blog is The Last Book I Read.

***Would you like to share about your book club here at Books on the Brain? If so, leave a comment and I will get in touch with you about a guest post!

For previous volumes of In Praise of Book Clubs, click HERE

For more info on starting your own book club, click HERE

For fun ways to make your book club better, click HERE

For a chance to win The Safety of Secrets by DeLaune Michel, click HERE