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Capturing the modern woman
By Linda A. Prussen-Razzano
Crittendon interlaces the book with a narrative voice so adept at sardonic humor (one is laughing at the end of the first brief page); the cumulative work is masterful. The best humor relies heavily on the truth. As this novel strives to be truthful, her character's ability to give voice to thoughts we often had, but didn't share, is wildly funny.
The lengthy phone call between mothers, where over half the conversation is directed towards the kids that seem to crawl out of the woodwork the moment Mommy puts the handset to her ear. The battlefield of toys that grow exponentially when even a day is not spent actively picking them up. The endless rounds of chores that seem meaningless and secondary, yet become a source of friction if they are left undone. The guilt, the doubt, the sacrifice, the false pride, the quiet desperation as Amanda and her family struggle to remain in the middle class, but feel themselves slowly sinking in status, grasping at the trappings of security…if unable to maintain the illusion of it.
Amanda symbolizes the often unspoken struggle taking place in many mothers today. The lure of accomplishment, identity, and financial security that can be found outside the home, versus the need to nurture, guide, and protect the core of her life, her children. The reality that her husband hasn't purchased a new suit or shoes for over two years because money is so tight, and the fantasy that they will somehow be able to scrape together enough for college. The reality that her children attend a prestigious private pre-school on "charity," and the fantasy that she can continue to keep the same pace as the affluent mothers in her children's play group. The reality that the life she envisioned for herself was slipping away, and the fantasy that she can still have it, somehow, someday.
Amanda further symbolizes the inherent role of motherhood. Raised as a feminist with an activist, feminist mother, Amanda does not purposely set out to abandon her feminist upbringing. To the end of the book, she clings to her maiden name and corrects anyone who refers to her as "Mrs." The changes in her life towards a more conservative outlook are not beset with grandstanding; they take place slowly, gradually, honestly, and naturally. They are powerful not for their flowery verbiage, but because they are often unstated.
The decision to marry young came because she had met someone she considered to be the perfect man, one who she loves deeply and who loves her in return. The decision to stay home with her children came because she could no longer withstand the gut-wrenching cries of her son as she left him at daycare; further, the growing fatigue and nausea of her second pregnancy devoured her strength. The decision to have a third baby, at a time when her family's finances were strained nearly to the snapping point, came because she could not ignore the truth of the life inside her, despite having marched against pro-lifers nearly 15 years before.
In so many frightening ways, I saw myself in this book. The slow evolution from the left to the right. The decision not to pursue a six-figure position because the travel would take me away from my family for the majority of the year. The decision to leave an intense, highly lucrative position because of my second pregnancy. The traumatic, premature birth of a daughter that instantly readjusted my every priority. The guilt, the doubt, the sacrifice, the false pride, the quiet desperation as I and my family struggle to remain in the middle class.
All in all, a definite must read.
Linda Prussen-Razzano is frequent contributor to Enter Stage Right and a number of other online magazines.
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