Book Thirtytwo: A Life's Work: On Becoming a Mother

A Life's Work: On Becoming a Mother, Rachel Cusk

Oof, this is not happy-go-lucky new mother reading. This is serious stuff. Writerly stuff. In fact, pretty depressing stuff. Rachel Cusk, in other words, is no Jools Oliver. But it is quite good. She paints a very surreal world where it feels as if the only inhabitants are her and her newborn daughter. Other characters, including her infrequently mentioned husband, float in and out like ghosts. I'm sure this is on purpose, as it brings you closer to her own feelings of being trapped by the experience of motherhood… this is a very claustrophobic book. I have a feeling that reading this right after having my own child and floating through my own little ghost world was maybe not the best idea. It made me feel isolated and strange.

I do admire her honesty, though. I've always thought it very unfair to expect new mothers to be instantly in love with their new children and to automatically be perfect parents. With hormones surging and this new, strange being in your life, making the transition to motherhood feels awkward and foreign. And so she writes about this jarring change in identity, from being a woman who can read magazines or visit with friends whenever one chooses, or be defined by one's career, to being completely beholden to an infant's sleep and feeding schedule.

But, with all that said, part of me just thinks, "Oh, get over yourself. All you did was have a baby." Women do this every day all around the world and it isn't some big existential crisis. Here in America (and Europe, I suppose) we're so self-involved. It's probably good for us to think about something other than ourselves for a change. Being so wrapped up in our identity and sense of individuality can't be healthy. Can it?

Book Thirtyone: The Diary of an Honest Mum

The Diary of an Honest Mum, Jools Oliver

I am totally amused by the fact that I was reading this book, and then finished it, when I went into labor. I remember falling asleep at about 10:00 on Saturday night, and waking at around 1am with a strange cramping sensation. I wasn't sure what was going on, but I thought I should sit up and wait it out. So, I picked this up off my nightstand (my friend Anika had been over on Friday and lent me a stack of mother books, so this is what I had been working on) and kept on reading. At about 3:00, I finished the book and noticed that maybe these weird cramping sensations were coming with some kind of regularity, so I woke C up to help me time them. Ha! Turns out I was having contractions that were about 4-5 minutes apart. Yipes!

Anyhow, we'll leave the rest of my birth story for another time. As for this book, it really is a sweet little read. I was naturally drawn to it first out of the stack that Anika brought over because I am slightly obsessed with Jamie Oliver, Jools Oliver's husband. The book reads like your super sweet, slightly naive, but completely enthusiastic best friend is telling you all about her own experience. You can hear where she gets excited and feel for her when things get difficult. There's nothing terribly enlightening in here, and she's not the world's greatest writer, but it was still quite compelling. At least, compelling enough for me to not be able to put it down even through some very close contractions. One thing I learned about Jamie Oliver is that, boy oh boy, I would not want to be married to that man. Not because he doesn't sound like a sweet husband and father, but because it seems like he's just never around! And being a brand new mom at home with a newborn at the moment, I can't tell you how terrible that sounds. I couldn't do this without C by my side right now, whether he's taking the baby so I can get some extra sleep, bringing me breakfast in bed, or just being my wonderful, silly, sweet, amazing husband.

Book Thirty: Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, Jamie Ford

I grew up on Bainbridge Island, which was the home of the very first Japanese Americans who were interned during the Second World War. As I went through school on Bainbridge, we learned explicitly about this history, often first-hand from those who were interned themselves, as several of my teachers were children during the war. I've seen "Visible Target" I don't know how many times. Maybe I took it for granted that everyone knew about this horrible period of American history. When I went to the east coast for college, I couldn't believe how many of my well-educated classmates didn't even know about the internment of the Japanese Americans. They weren't taught this in history class and had no idea that such a huge number of American citizens were treated as criminals during the war. Yikes, right?

So, even though I have a particular interest in this time period and bit of history, I found this book so very, very (very) terrible. I mean it, this book downright stinks. I love that it's trying to shed light on and bring exposure to a crappy aspect of our country's history, but I just can't abide by the worst writing I've read in ages, terrible stilted dialogue, and the tritest of trite plots. I mean... ugh. I found myself thinking this read and felt more like a YA novel, but that's almost not doing YA novels the justice they deserve. Seriously, whatever you do, don't subject yourself to this book. There are so many other either enjoyable or educational ways to learn about Japanese American history that there's no reason to give this dreck one second of your time.