The Madwoman in the Volvo: My Year of Raging Hormones

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From an “imaginatively twisted and fearless” writer (Los Angeles Times), a hilarious memoir of middle age.
In a voice that is wry, disarming, and totally candid, Sandra Tsing Loh tells the moving and laugh-out-loud tale of her roller coaster through “the change.” This is not your grandmother’s menopause story. Loh chronicles utterly relatable, everyday perils: raising preteen daughters, weathering hormonal changes, and going through the ups and downs of a career and a ...
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The Madwoman in the Volvo: My Year of Raging Hormones

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From an “imaginatively twisted and fearless” writer (Los Angeles Times), a hilarious memoir of middle age.
In a voice that is wry, disarming, and totally candid, Sandra Tsing Loh tells the moving and laugh-out-loud tale of her roller coaster through “the change.” This is not your grandmother’s menopause story. Loh chronicles utterly relatable, everyday perils: raising preteen daughters, weathering hormonal changes, and going through the ups and downs of a career and a relationship. She writes also about an affair and the explosion of her marriage, the pressures of keeping her daughters off Facebook while managing the legal and marital hijinks of her eighty-nine-year-old dad, and a despairing withdrawal to a tiny cabin where she combined wine and Ambien, paralyzing her arm into a claw. In one outrageous chapter, a hormonal Loh finds herself trekking to her preteen daughter’s school to confront a ten-year-old bully half her size. In another she attempts to subsist on only zero-calorie noodles and the occasional fat-free yogurt in a hopeless effort to vanquish added midlife weight.
In The Madwoman in the Volvo Loh speaks hilariously and honestly about her life as a mother, a daughter, and an artist. She recounts her journey through a tumultuous time of life, trying to maintain appearances during an epic hormonal—and that means physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual—change. The upbeat conclusion: it does get better.
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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - Judith Newman
The Madwoman in the Volvo is not the first book on the subject…though Loh's ranks among the most horrifyingly amusing…[a] brave and witty memoir…Loh is such an engaging writer she manages to make this extremely difficult time hilarious. Make no mistake, however: For women, this is some serious stuff.
Publishers Weekly
Southern California author Loh has amply demonstrated her stand-up comic skills in her syndicated radio show and previous autobiographical works (Mother on Fire) and here faces down her life at sudden impasse in her late 40s. Having left her longtime husband and father of her two preteen girls, Mr. X, as she calls him, two years before, she took up with Mr. Y, a theater colleague and friend of 10 years whom she regarded as the Ethel to her Lucy, “the sunny island my shipwreck had landed on.” After a reckless affair that she compares to a prison break (“We dug ourselves out of our cells with spoons, and we ran for it”), the two left their spouses and cohabited. Tsing Loh, half-Chinese, half-German, recognized that her abrupt fits of weeping, “gothic moods,” worry, and manic energy were no doubt the first symptoms of menopause. Resorting to cursory research and plenty of secondhand advice from sister “frumpy Generation Xers,” who were busy mothers and caregivers to elders, Tsing Loh’s remedies involve everything from hormone replacement therapy to plant-based forms of estrogen, and “happiness projects” to counteract the force of “gloomlets” like puppies and the color yellow. From her own histrionic blowout with her new partner that requires therapy, Tsing Loh learned that women going through menopause need compassion and hydration, above all, and the encouragement to see the potential for wisdom when the cloud of hormones lifts. (May)
Ayelet Waldman
“If I had to experience the calamity that is perimenopause without Sandra Tsing Loh's wise and witty model, I'm not sure I would make it through in one piece. (My family certainly wouldn't.) Ms. Loh possesses an eviscerating insight into the perils of this often tumultuous stage of life, but more importantly, she's hilariously funny. Madwoman in the Volvo left me giggling on the couch, thrilled to be ignoring my children for the good reason of being immersed in a delicious and marvelous book.”
Kirkus Reviews
A writer and syndicated radio host's no-holds-barred account of how she survived the rigors of midlife crisis and menopause. When Atlantic contributing editor Loh (Mother on Fire: A True Motherf%#$@ Story About Parenting!, 2008, etc.) reached her late 40s, the stability and rationality that had characterized her world suddenly vanished. Feeling vaguely trapped by a staid marriage, she made a "prison break" with an equally bored married man into what she thought was the freedom of an affair. The result was a messy divorce and an even messier period of regrouping. But Loh's malaise persisted and began to manifest as physical symptoms—including bloating, weight gain and rapidly shifting moods—she could neither explain nor completely control. With candor and attitude to spare, the author chronicles how she navigated the unexpected transformations that occur in all midlife women. Determined to find a way to endure "the change" with her sanity intact, she explored everything from best-selling books about finding happiness to hip new exercise trends like Kettlebelling. But sometimes even her best efforts were not enough. As she tried to cope with her unsettling physical and emotional changes, she also had to deal with other volatile situations. One was her two daughters' transitions into adolescence and immersion into "the peculiar horrors of Facebook." The other was her eccentric octogenarian father's decision to marry a younger woman he thought would take care of him but who would eventually be diagnosed with a severe case of dementia. Loh observes that late baby boomer/early Gen-X women like Madonna, Oprah and Demi Moore have helped remove the stigma associated with "the change" and shown that menopause can be a time of female empowerment rather than hysterical helplessness. Humbled and changed from the inside out, Loh still celebrates menopause as a brand of wisdom revealing "this chore wheel called modern life" for the sham it is. A funny, frank and hopeful memoir of middle age.
Cathi Hanauer
“Loh is that rare writer who is howlingly funny on the surface and subtly brilliant just beneath. . . . . Goes down like cheap wine—fast and furiously—yet at the end, instead of a hangover, you have a bold and beautiful new view of life.”
Cheryl Strayed
“Reads like a weekend away with the best friend you ever had—blazingly vulnerable, scorchingly smart, and funny as hell. It’s both an intimate portrait of one woman as she approaches menopause and a full-throated cultural howl about what it means to be female and forty or fifty or sixty something in America today. I was filled with recognition as I read the book’s first pages and flooded with gratitude by the end. . . . A beautiful book you’re going to miss after you’ve read the last page.”
Mary Roach
“I laughed maniacally, nodded in empathy, hooted, teared up, and laughed some more. And while you could make the case that with a menopausal woman, that could have happened even had I spent the time gardening, in this case I am pretty certain it was the author’s doing.”
Judith Newman - New York Times Book Review
“[A] brave and witty memoir.”
Claire Dederer - Los Angeles Review of Books
“Does what every memoir ought to do: it reminds the reader she’s not alone.”
Southern California Public Radio
“Wry, disarming, and totally candid. . . . This is not your grandmother’s menopause story.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393088687
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 5/5/2014
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 73,208
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Sandra Tsing Loh
Writer and performer Sandra Tsing Loh is a contributing editor to The Atlantic, host of the syndicated radio show The Loh Down on Science, and the author of five previous books. Her work has appeared in Best American Essays. In addition to having been a regular commentator on NPR’s Morning Edition and PRI’s This American Life, she has performed two solo shows off-Broadway. She lives in Pasadena, California.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 4 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 12, 2014

    Age of Unreason

    I saw the author on Bill Maher and so much of what she said resonated for me. So I read her sample on my Nook and it made me laugh. Now I really need to laugh because I don't know if I am menopausal, post menopauspal, or just murderpausal. I was hoping to find some humor and possibly some wisdom for a life's experience that I have no compass. There is no village for me to go to a crone and ask her what to expect or how to weather this storm. My husband has been telling me for months that I am one angry woman and I have changed. I wanted to try and get a little of the old me back through humor. Well, I learned some things and laughed a little but I was disappointed. 25% of the book was humorous, 25% of the book was research and references and the rest seemed to be the author's attempt to explain choices more than her experiences with menopause. I don't care how menopausal I am, if I find a person that I think is dead, I am calling 911 not my sister. Now her sister, however, is a different story. I wish she would write a book because she really seems to have it all together. So in closing, if you are just starting perimenopause this would be a good book to read to give you a clue as to what to expect and she will give you good references for more medical knowledge. However, if you are in the throes of hot flashes and pitching dishes at people......not so much.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 15, 2014


    This book made me laugh out loud.I also shed a few tears. Made me realize I'm not crazy and alone.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 22, 2014


    Glad I finished menopause years ago. Laughed all the way through this great description of life change

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 29, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews

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