Monday, December 27, 2010

The Other Mother by Gwendolen Gross

I loved how honest this book was. It reminded me a lot of Arlington Park by Rachel Cusk, though those mothers are less sympathetic. The two mothers in this book (each narrates alternating chapters, thus each is the “other mother”) are more likable than Cusk’s women. They live on either side of a high fence, both literally and figuratively. They are neighbors in New Jersey and sometimes they are friends. One stays home full time with her three children (ages 13 and under) and the other goes to work as an editor at a New York publishing firm, leaving her infant daughter with a series of caregivers. Each envies the other’s life but believes her own choice is the best one (usually).

Gross is a lovely writer and, like Cusk, captures the minutiae of suburban life with young children in all its sticky wonder. But it's a dangerous topic for a writer who wants to be taken seriously. Just yesterday in the New York Times Book Review I read this review of My Life in Twenty-Three Yoga Poses by Claire Dederer, which is a memoir of motherhood and family life. The reviewer, Dani Shapiro, feels compelled to remark that “it is heartening to see a serious female writer take such a risky step into territory where writers of literary ambition fear to tread, lest they be dismissed as trivial.” Shapiro goes to great lengths in her review to justify why she actually liked a book about motherhood and child rearing. Must I make similar excuses for myself? Well I’m not going to. This was an interesting book: well written, observant, and moving.

(Book 54, 2010)


Gayle said...

I've had this and Arlington Park on my TBR list for ages. Thanks for giving them a bump.

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