The Ten Year Nap, Meg Wolitzer, Riverhead Books, 2008, 351 pp
Note: For an unknown reason, I am still not able to upload any images to my blog. It doesn't look as cool without the book cover, but at least I can post my review. Bear with Blogger and stick with me. The last time this happened, it eventually got sorted out.
In The Ten Year Nap, Meg Wolitzer takes on the "mommy wars." The whole issue of stay-at-home moms versus working moms has reached new heights this year but in 2008 was a hot new debate. Is the stay-at-home mom a better mother than the one who manages to continue her career? What is better for the kids? Which mother type is more fulfilled? How does a woman who left the work force to raise children get back into working?
As has often been mentioned, these questions are actually the luxury of a privileged minority of middle-class women who do not need to work for economic reasons or women who, together with their husbands, have enough income to afford help with child rearing and housekeeping. The majority of women in the world either have to work just to keep their children fed and sheltered or live in societies where women are not permitted to work outside the home.
This novel is peopled with women who are dealing with the various scenarios of the middle-class mom. Wolitzer covers the dominant issues and the usual ways in which such women interact in a 21st century urban setting. Just for balance, one of the characters is a working mom.
The main trouble I had with the book is that it reads more like an enhanced thesis: lots of facts with case histories included. The characters come across more as types than as living, breathing individual women. The thin plot is concerned with how each woman copes with turning forty and gradually waking up from the "ten year nap" of raising children only to realize that she is bored. Wolitzer indulges in far too much telling rather than showing.
I suppose if a reader had no other female friends with which to discuss such troubles, she could find some solace or even help by reading The Ten Year Nap. I felt the author took on a relevant and timely issue and somehow made it dull. If you are a working mom by necessity, you might not even have time to read novels, but if you do, this one will either make you laugh or tick you off.
(The Ten Year Nap is available in paperback by order from Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)