In the days before unloading a moving van, living (again) with N, and negotiating a potential home sale, all whilst trotting off to New Mexico to visit parents, sisters and nieces, grading, grading, grading and attempting to maintain some molecule of sanity, I read. Ah, those days. I’ve got a whole new line up ready to go (see links to the left) and it’s Spring Break–officially! So I best update you on the two latest covers to close before I inundate us with more!
(Note: I read Bitch first, and this, thankfully after. This Is Not the Story You Think It Is proved the perfect antidote to the murky dust cloud Bitch created.)
Let me be clear: I skipped over a third of this book. Laura Muson is beautiful, lives in Montana and I’m sure I would be friends with her. Thing is, I wanted the meaty part of the story, and for the first 60 pages, she flips back in time to Italy, to her youth, to times that don’t drip with juice from the fat of her disintegrating marriage. It felt like her editor said, Laura, beef this up, give it some background, and she did and then it’s all trying too hard to be Liz Gilbert.
But, oh, the current personal struggle is beautiful and heart-wrenching. Munson proves otherworldly and diety-like when she realizes her own happiness can be created, honed, plucked out of life, and that it is not dependent on her crumbling husband. The story is tender, to be sure, and her personal triumph so unlikely that I almost doubt it’s true. Yet, I root for her, I feel her pain and want her to reap happiness as easily as she does carrots in her garden. As a narrator, she’s sometimes hard to like; she describes her upper-class WASPY background so much, and then asks us not to judge her for it, that I would have rather her keep quiet about it.
Muson did teach me, though. Her patience not with her husband, but with herself, was a lesson. Her observations that her husband’s problems stemmed from his personal battle, and not hers, reminded me that not everything is about me. And thankfully, it gave me hope for the battles that will wage over the course of a marriage.
I snagged the book at the behest of my favorite website, A Practical Wedding, which, dearies, is about wayyy more than weddings. Maybe I fell so hard for Meg and her soriee of smart-minded chickies cause I had moved up here and had left my own tangible ones. Oh, and cause she recommends books like this.
The Bitch in the House is a collection of essays investigating the role of modern day women: daters, wives, mothers…slaves? These vignettes are not for the faint of heart. Not for anyone who would have a difficult time burning their bra. In fact, N could easily tell when I’d been reading “that book.” “I think you should stop reading that book,” he said on more than one occasion.
But–how lovely it was to hear from honest women who tell you like it is. How conflicted emotions are sometimes par for course. How difficult and conflicting it is to be a strong, independent woman in today’s society. And of course, it begs the question: can we have it all?
“I had lost that self now, despite all my vows not to–lost the self I considered my best one.”
–Kate Christensen, “Killing the Puritan Within”, from The Bitch in the House
So many of the stories nail down the murky, delicate, alluded-to-but-never-discussed hardships of partnering, of mothering. The book made me think I wasn’t so freaky for mourning the loss of my single self. For loving both the heat of N’s cuddle and the isolation of book reading equally.
The best part about reading this book was I had purchased it (oh! to have money to buy books on a whim again!) and, inspired by this article and this kick-ass Billy Collins poem, I annotated the hell out of The Bitch. She’s smeared on, laughed in, sobbed over, pondered upon, all in pen, for the next pair of eyes to digest.
So, lovely readers, I offer this book. I’ll wrap it up pretty (remember these gems?) and ship it to your mailbox, for your reading pleasure. Don’t tell your partner you’re reading it; rather, get a headlamp and pillow and curl up in the bathtub like my mama used to do. Any takers?