The Ten-Year Nap

The Ten-Year Nap

2.8 29
by Meg Wolitzer

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The New York Times bestselling novel that woke up critics, book clubs, and women everywhere.

For a group of four New York friends the past decade has been defined largely by marriage and motherhood, but it wasn’t always that way. Growing up, they had been told that their generation would be different. And for a while this was true.…  See more details below


The New York Times bestselling novel that woke up critics, book clubs, and women everywhere.

For a group of four New York friends the past decade has been defined largely by marriage and motherhood, but it wasn’t always that way. Growing up, they had been told that their generation would be different. And for a while this was true. They went to good colleges and began high-powered careers. But after marriage and babies, for a variety of reasons, they decided to stay home, temporarily, to raise their children. Now, ten years later, they are still at home, unsure how they came to inhabit lives so different from the ones they expected—until a new series of events begins to change the landscape of their lives yet again, in ways they couldn’t have predicted.

Written in Meg Wolitzer’s inimitable, glittering style, The Ten-Year Nap is wickedly observant, knowing, provocative, surprising, and always entertaining, as it explores the lives of its women with candor, wit, and generosity.

Meg Wolitzers's newest book, The Interestings, is now available from Riverhead Books.

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Editorial Reviews

Sheri Holman
If Wolitzer were content to people her book solely with women happily married and wealthy enough to afford the luxury of ambivalence, it would be a too-familiar read. But she weaves in vignettes of marginal South Dakotans and various iconoclastic mothers and muses, subtly showing how women's individual choices (or lack thereof) are inextricable from the history and future of feminism…The book occasionally reads like an overly earnest polemic or a chatty episode of "The View," but for the most part Wolitzer perfectly captures her women's resolve in the face of a dizzying array of conflicting loyalties.
—The Washington Post
Penelope Green
As in earlier novels like The Wife and This Is Your Life, Meg Wolitzer presents a taxonomy of the subspecies known as the urban female. Lavishly educated and ruefully self-aware, the women in The Ten-Year Nap are never quite at the top of their game, time and success having passed them by—because of their gender, weak ambition, middling talent or some combination thereof. Amy and her friends aren't total losers, they're just not big technicolor winners. Caught between the second and third waves of feminism, they've created lives—as daughters do—in opposition to those of their mothers. All this could make for a dreary soup, except that it's a Wolitzer novel, so it's very entertaining. The tartly funny Wolitzer is a miniaturist who can nail a contemporary type, scene or artifact with deadeye accuracy.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

This self-conscious, idea-driven novel is read well by Alyssa Bresnahan, but she doesn't clearly distinguish each mother struggling for identity and purpose in today's confusing "post-feminist" middle class. Speaker identity comes not from the reader but from "Amy said" or "Jill said." There is plenty of irony-note the title-but Bresnahan's ironic tone sometimes leads us to dismiss characters' experiences and feelings. This is not entirely her fault as the main players are somewhat stereotyped: lawyer quits work to care for baby (now aged 10); husband struggles to keep family afloat; grandmother remains feminist warrior; Chinese mother wastes her mathematical genius. But Bresnahan does enliven Wolitzer's recap of modern women's conundrums, so despite limitations, this audio will surely kindle controversy on blogs and at book clubs, kitchen, school and office confabs. Simultaneous release with the Riverhead hardcover (Reviews, Dec. 24). (Apr.)

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Kirkus Reviews
A wise, witty assessment of the contemporary dilemmas of middle-class mothers (in particular: to work or not to work), set in the competitive terrain of New York City parenting. Using the comfortable format of friendship between four women, Wolitzer's eighth novel (The Position, 2005, etc.) takes ironic stock of how far females have (and haven't) come since feminism tried to rearrange the work/life balance between the sexes. Lawyer Amy Lamb has still not gone back to her job after the birth of her son ten years ago. Her good friend Jill, a one-time prizewinner who recently left Manhattan for the suburbs with her family, is finding it hard to fit in. Their circle also includes ex-artist Roberta who, like Amy, feels happier without the pressures of a job, yet senses dissatisfactions and uncertainty about her identity; and mathematician Karen, whose Chinese parents take great satisfaction in her not needing to work. The women meet for coffee or yoga and mutual support. Aside from Jill's jealousy of Amy's new friendship with glamorous museum director Penny, unaware that the relationship is driven by a shared secret (Penny's extramarital affair), plot events are few. Instead, Wolitzer uses modern domesticity as a lens through which to scrutinize mixed feelings about ambition, marriage, aging, money and the peculiar results of the women's individual choices. Further telling comparisons arise from glimpses of women of their mothers' generation. Instead of conclusions, there are some gradual changes, sometimes for the better. A perceptive, highly pleasurable novel that serves as Wolitzer's up-to-date answer to the old question: "What do women want?"Agent: Suzanne Gluck/William Morris Agency
Kera Bolonik
Meg Wolitzer has established herself, intentionally or not, as the fiction laureate of feminist social politics with her previous two novels: The Wife, the story of a secret literary collaboration between an award-winning, philandering writer and his brilliant wife, and The Position, which reveals the lasting impact of the sexual revolution on the four children of a pair of cultural provocateurs. Thus, The Ten-Year Nap completes a trilogy of sorts, introducing four New York women who've opted out of their impressive careers to choose full-time motherhood and are finding themselves locked into what is now a familiar dilemma: how to be an ambidextrous Superwoman while negotiating a postnatal identity crisis. Lest readers think an F-word novel -- by which I mean "feminist" -- could only be humorless, unappealing, passé, or heavily weighed down with an agenda of some kind, they will be pleasantly disappointed by Wolitzer's droll, urbane wit and her spot-on depictions of women's lives amid the demanding, competitive, and exhilarating metropolis, as she dispels the media-perpetuated myth of the "post-feminist" era.

The Ten-Year Nap isn't especially plot-driven, but neither does it lack for absorbing, extremely sympathetic drama. We meet former trusts-and-estates lawyer Amy Lamb and her three closest friends, as they consider their lives before and after the birth of their children and the possibility of returning to work. Amy's particular psychic crisis is sparked by the sudden death of her neighbor, a 30-something man who leaves behind a stay-at-home wife and children, and an exorbitant rent at their modest Upper East Side apartment building that is likely beyond their means. This predicament sets Amy's head spinning: "She thought, self-indulgently, of [her husband] Leo and herself, and she imagined everything ruined, lost."

It doesn't help that she grew up the daughter of a second-wave feminist. Amy and her circle are keenly conscious of their wrestling match between an enlightened conscience and the desire to be a domestic caretaker -- and, for some, an additional struggle with the financial repercussions of that choice. The group spans the spectrum of New York City's waning middle-class (though in any other city besides New York, their husbands' respective salaries would qualify them for a higher rung on the economic ladder). Amy's best friend Jill Hamlin, a onetime academic star, held a position as a film scout; her abortion-activist friend Roberta Sokolov is an artist and worked as a puppeteer; and Karen Yip worked as a statistical analyst. Not surprisingly, only Karen can afford to be a full-time mother in Manhattan; Jill has recently defected to the New Jersey suburb "Holly Hills" to make it work for her.

But the Lamb-Buckners are determined to stick it out in Manhattan, even though Leo -- a lawyer at a mid-level law firm -- sees his six-figure salary depleted by their rent and their ten-year-old son's private school tuition. Not that Amy can bear to know the details: "Once she started looking with any depth at their money, she became anxious and quickly backed away from her own curiosity."

So then how does Penny Ramsey -- a museum director, mother of three, and wife of a hedge fund manager -- do it? And for that matter, how did Amy's mother, the formidable Antonia Lamb, who had a midlife feminist awakening, balance a luminous literary career with raising three girls? (As Amy remembers, it her mother emotionally abandoned them at a most critical time: pubescence.) Antonia has set the bar high for her daughter, nagging her to rise to it by recovering her career after the ten-year break that gives the book its title. Wolitzer grants us entry into Amy's mind, whose interior monologues vividly and poignantly evoke a brain working overtime to mediate her worries about friends and family and her self-scrutiny, insecurity, and self-comparisons to peers, especially working mothers like Penny. Amy gets defensive in Penny's company, bracing herself for the kind of judgment she'd come to expect from her mother. "[Penny] was so accomplished and serene. Every part of Penny's life managed to function in cooperation with every other part." And the idealization doesn't stop there: "Amy knew that Penny Ramsey didn't wonder about what women like Amy did all day without a job to go to. Maybe the idea of the supposed tension between working and nonworking mothers had been put out in the world just to cause divisiveness."

While Penny is regarded as both a marvel and a source of amusement for Amy's friends, because she appears as a living embodiment of an impossible and idealized notion of what is expected of them, they all sense there is more to her story. Is it possible that a human being could really juggle a family and a career with such finesse? The whole concept of Penny makes Amy wonder if she is squandering her own time now that her son, Mason, doesn't require her constant attention.

Wolitzer doesn't let that question hang in the air too long. Penny and Amy strike up a friendship -- well, Penny enslaves an initially willing and awestruck Amy as her confidante -- and it doesn't take too long for the stay-at-home mom to see the many cracks in her veneer, namely her extramarital affair with an English man. But she can't contain her prurient fascination with the Wonder Woman: Penny unwittingly offers vicarious pleasures (since the Lamb-Buckners have been wrangling with a prolonged bout of bed death), consolation after Amy loses Jill to the suburbs, and a touch of Schadenfreude. Still, her obsessive, codependent friendship with Penny comes at the expense of her other friendships until a joint family vacation sets Amy on a path of disillusionment: She witnesses the full extent of Penny's solipsism and betrayal of both her arrogant husband, who makes her life possible, and her young lover, who risks everything to be with her. And with that epiphany comes a mixture of grief and relief.

The Ten-Year Nap isn't as linear as I've described; it's rich with insightful, deeply felt and realized back-stories about Amy, her family, friends (Jill, who believes she has the attachment disorder she initially assumed her adopted eastern European daughter was suffering; creatively frustrated Rebecca, whose marriage is fraught with artistic jealousy), and, occasionally, those who've affected their respective lives (including my favorite, a fellow mother with anorexia and, amazingly, an entrepreneurial spirit, who at once repels and impresses the women when she announces she's opening a gym called "SlimJim...[for the] big, unexploited consumer base of women with 'eating differences.' "). There is not a false chord in these pages: Wolitzer entertains as she enlightens, which is not to say she writes merely issues-driven novels -- she has never been one to diverge into moralization or vilification. In fact, I felt as deeply sympathetic toward the husbands, who yearned to connect and be involved with their families while doing their own juggling acts, as I did to the women. And that's because Wolitzer has a rare understanding and ability to convey the intricacies and idiosyncrasies of relationships -- be they romantic, platonic, or parental. I admittedly got distracted by a few tangential vignettes, like the short chapter about Nadia Comaneci, Jill's daughter's namesake. But Wolitzer proves a master of the storyteller's art, and the lives of her characters converge to portray, with humor, honesty, and gravitas, the immediacy and flux and demanding nature of motherhood, marriage, and a Manhattan as lived by accomplished, devoted women who often worry no one is listening. --Kera Bolonik

Kera Bolonik's writing has appeared in The New York Times,, Slate, the Forward, and Bookforum, among others. She lives in Brooklyn.

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Penguin Publishing Group
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The Ten-Year Nap 2.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 29 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book shines a light on the lives of several stay at home moms, but obscures some of the joy. I was disappointed with the novel's portrayal of marriage and motherhood. That said, it was interesting and I did enjoy reading it. It just left me feeling very sad.
ignacio_4_bn More than 1 year ago
If you're familiar with the kind of movies that join together three or four stories and, somehow, combine them into one, with great ease, you'll have no problem following this novel. It's about different people living different lives but they all intertwine with one another. The main theme is about how some women feel about leaving work behind and not returning for one reason or another. The different characters reflect on their current lives and wonder whether or not it was worth it to leave their careers and stay at home to watch after the kid(s). After reading this novel you should have a better idea about what goes through the head of the average mom...whether she is currently working or not.
Guest More than 1 year ago
For good fiction to catch fire something needs to be interesting-characters, story or good writing and I believe it's inherent for it to happen in the opening pages and this one doesn't catch fire. I haven't read anything else by her and maybe her previous novels are better. I could have also done without the simple language like Bip, Boop and Beep.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The 4 women in this book were not a representation of stay at home moms and their struggles! The title alone is insulting to women who have stayed at home for 10 years to raise their we watch soaps all day and are completely mindless because we don't work for corporate america.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Im done
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I had read the Uncoupling by Wolitzer and was looking forward to reading this. As a woman who is considering having children I drawn to the synopsis and thought I could relate to the idea of women losing their sense of self after just taking on the role of mother. But there were so many characters struggling with the same thing that I think the story petered out and I lost interest.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was boring and lacked purpose. I did not find the characters very likable but I suppose the stories of these people were true to life. There was no climax and really just a melancholy hazey feel over all.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book for a plane ride!
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This story seems to be an attempt to have a "Sex In the City" style of writing (four good friends), but updated for the time in life when the ladies are married with children. There was nothing about it that was original or thought provoking. It wasn't difficult to read, but it also wasn't the type of book I was craving to get back to.
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literarymuseVC More than 1 year ago
"One day you just woke up, and there was somewhere you needed to be." So The Ten-Year Nap ends, but there's a long journey for many women that needs to be traveled before they waken to new possibilities. Meg Wolitzer offers the reader a bevy of unique characters who have stayed home with their children during their early and formative years. Whether that scenario was driven by choice, necessity or just a natural evolution, each woman finds meaning in being a "stay at home Mom" but at the same time contemplates what life would have been like had other roads been traveled. Just how does one be a good mother and find meaning in that role when the world seems to have stigmatized such a choice as meaningless next to that of a working woman? What happens to one's married state when one's children become one's almost entire world, a world disconnected from the corporate or business world occupied by one's spouses? Meet Amy Lamb, wife of Leo and mother of Mason. She's madly in love with her precocious son, appreciating the precious and tender moments that would surely be missed if she were to be a working Mom. Because she's made this choice, not one totally supported by Leo, Amy aptly describes their financial situation as the metaphor of a voracious wind tunnel, one in which the bills suck out their meager resources and then fill back in the paychecks they need to support their extravagant lifestyle. Leo's at the top of his mediocre career and would rather just say yes to his wife's demands rather than be considered a husband who can't provide for his family. So resentment and distance expand, never voiced for fear of disappointing the other. Sound familiar? Probably to oh so many men and women living in metropolitan homes with a spectacularly extravagant cost of living. Or perhaps you might relate more to Penny who has fallen out of love with her husband and begun an affair with Ian because his connection with her former artistic world makes her feel more alive than in the humdrum ordinary daily life of a Mom whose biggest divergence from routine will be engaging in the school's Safety Patrol. Even that role presents a frightening, threatening reality for which Penny and Amy are totally unprepared! Jill Hamlin, Amy's best friend, has her own secret to face. She and her husband have adopted a daughter, Nadia, from Siberia, who offers her own unexpected challenge. So what's the matter with Jill who doesn't seem to have all those expected gushy feelings for her adopted daughter? From where looms the large issues of abandonment underscoring this family's life? These are just a few snippets of the plot that forces these women to begin questioning what they are doing in a rapidly changing world which forces change both while they are enjoying their "ten-year nap" and as its end draws near. One even gets a glimpse into the world of woman who straddle the world of work and home, including some humorous scenes such as Maggie Thatcher's exhaustion in her famous office from having to juggle such daunting tasks in a man's tough world. An iconic, memorable novel of a rapidly disappearing lifestyle? Perhaps.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I thought this book would be interesting, being based on the lives of women who chose to stay home and be mom. I expected to be an enjoyable read. I was dissapointed however by the simple language, and excessive use of the 'F' word. There are so many other respectable words that can be used in a book, it is nothing more than a sign of a lazy writer who finds it necessary to depend on this word to make her points. Furthermore this book discredits the effort put into being a stay at home mom, and demeans the value of marriage. It is a work of fiction, but I still find it distasteful and dissapointing. After reading this book, I would not go back to read anything else by this author.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am so glad I discovered this book and writer, I cant wait to read her other books! I was engrossed in the stories of the women, they were all unique and yet interconnected by their own self doubts. As a middle-aged woman I could relate to a piece of each ones anxieties and struggles to find themselves in the midst of husbands, children, friends and unfullfilled dreams. These women all seem to be sleep walking through their lives *hence the ten year nap*and blaming it on other people. I loved this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I highly recommend 'The Ten-Year Nap' for any woman who has put aside a part of herself, career or otherwise, for motherhood and is curious to read a novel that portrays female characters in this position and what their thoughts and reactions to their situations are. Almost every other paragraph I found myself thinking, 'I've thought that,' or, 'I've done that!' or 'I wanted to do that...' Wolitzer does a thorough job of creating a range of characters who portray various aspects and emotions of motherhood. The interspersing vignettes that describe moments in time from the lives of the main characters' mothers, as well as Georgette Magritte and Nadia Comaneci are interesting as well. However, being a novel, these women do live in the somewhat rarified, upper middle class world of Manhattan which makes their lives and situations more palatable and much more readable than if they lived in Plano, Texas. I rarely read novels these days because I just don't care about the lives of fictional people anymore, but I enjoyed reading about these women because I felt I had so much in common with them. I would rather read this novel about women who give up or put aside careers to raise kids rather than a work of nonfiction that documents the effects and outcomes of this choice. And, Wolitzer does a wicked job of parodying these current, popular non- fiction titles - it's fun to try to figure out which book she is mimicking 'or mocking.'
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Based on the synopsis, I predicted I would love this book - being a woman who decided to leave career behind and raise the children. I only made it through a couple of chapters. I just didn't care about any of the characters. Too SLOW........can't recommend it.