I just finished this this afternoon and I really liked it. I read it very quickly and found it super satisfying (especially because there was a very satisfying detailed epilogue–I love epilogues, love them!) This may be the truest book I’ve ever read that captures what it’s like staying at home with young children. I think what I liked so much about it was that it wasn’t an over-the-top portrayal, it wasn’t whiny, and it wasn’t like a “mommy blog” of crazy hijinks. It felt normal to me, though I only have two children, not three in a 5 year span. (Who still thinks you can’t get pregnant when nursing? Who? I couldn’t believe the main character was twice surprised by becoming pregnant.)
Elena is the main character, Peter is her hsuband, and their three little boys are Alexander, Toby, and Baby Sam. Peter is a musician who gets a teaching job in Boston, prompting them to leave behind Elena’s family and move to Cambridge, where they know no one. The adjustment is tremendous-not only does Elena not have her family support, but they are living in a third floor apartment, in a city, and she’s essentially alone while Peter settles in to teaching and composing. On the day of their move Elena is at the park and a stranger asks “When are you due?” A terrible, terrible question to ask someone. Because of course Elena is not pregnant, but she’s so humiliated that she says she is. It sparks a desire in her to stop in a gym and join. But this is not a story about getting in shape. That is only a very small part of Elena’s quest to find herself again, to find time for herself. She is very aware of how having kids has changed her marriage and struggles to find a way to reconnect with her husband, but at the same time is aware of the intimacy that a husband and wife have with each other after they’ve had children together. I think that might be a poor description of what actually happens. There’s a lot in here-Elena’s friendship with Amanda, who seems to be wealthy and have a perfect child and husband (all the descriptions of Amanda and her daughter, “Gracin”, are hilarious), Elena’s newfound passion for photography, her slowly building friendship with a neighbor, her desire to not necessarily be her pre-children self, but her desire to craft a new post-child self. Her love for her children is very clear and all the kid stuff rang true to me, both the charming and sweet and the exasperating and maddening.
Delightfully realistic and I’m going to look for her other book!