Working moms on two continents found a kindred spirit in Kate Reddy, frantic heroine of the megaselling I Don't Know How She Does It; stay-at-home moms may become similarly attached to Amanda Bright, the bedraggled, deeply ambivalent heroine of this witty debut by journalist and TV pundit Crittenden (What Our Mothers Didn't Tell Us). As she slogs through her day with five-year-old Ben (dangerously on the verge of flunking preschool) and three-year-old Sophie, Amanda, a former NEA publicist, soon stops deluding herself that she is "not a homemaker," just temporarily at home to care for her children. As husband Bob petulantly points out, it's not much of a home-cramped, chaotic, cluttered with doll body parts "as if it had been attacked by suicide bomber Ken." Play dates and cocktail parties at swank Beltway McMansions painfully remind Amanda of the folly of subsisting on Bob's government paycheck. Bob isn't even home much, thrilled to be leading the Justice Department's investigation of software giant Megabyte. Envious of Bob, alienated from her rich female friends, estranged from her disapproving feminist mother, Amanda turns to the one sympathetic soul in her life-Alan, a stay-at-home dad. Originally published as weekly installments in the Wall Street Journal, this breezily polemical tale is lively and sometimes poignant. Crittenden writes knowingly about Washington politics, but is just as astute describing the politics of play dates and private schools. At times she overplays the satire, surrounding her likable "domestic curator" with a supporting cast of self-promoting narcissists and cutthroat workaholics, none of them worthy of the heroine's ambivalence or her precious free time. Still, this is a fun read, perfect for poolside. (May 12) Forecast: Crittenden has plenty of media experience, which should translate into attention for this potential big seller-if nothing else, it'll get buzz in the Beltway. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Crittenden (What Our Mothers Didn't Tell Us), a neofeminist pundit with a controversial outlook on today's women, here applies her perspective to fiction with this literary debut-the first novel ever to be serialized in the Wall Street Journal. Amanda has left her job at the National Endowment for the Arts to stay home with her two children. Husband Bob, who is with the Justice Department, has just landed the most important case of his career: nailing computer giant Megabyte for antitrust violations. Amanda's best friend, the beautiful Susie, has also secured a high-profile position hosting a new television show. In Washington, DC, the land of what you do and who you know, Amanda has been relegated to the playground and the laundry room-and it's getting hard for her to take. Just when Amanda seriously considers going back to work, fate steps in and makes her decision even more complicated. While similar in style to Brit Alison Pearson's I Don't Know How She Does It, Crittenden's story differs in that Amanda is having second thoughts about being a stay-at-home mom. While not a literary tour de force, this is still an interesting read for anyone grappling with issues of children and family.-Beth Gibbs, Davidson, NC Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
First fiction from a well-known advice-giver to mothers (What Our Mothers Didn't Tell Us, 1999), and the founder of Women's Quarterly. Simply giving up her job isn't enough to make our titular heroine happy. She's a harried Washington, DC, mother raising two small children; her husband, Bob, is enmeshed in his job at the Justice Department-currently cranking up a major antitrust case against Microsoft-esque corporation MegaByte-and, not surprisingly, doesn't notice that Amanda is heading toward a breakdown. Moreover, all the mothers she knows are wealthier than she, her son is on the fast track to a Ritalin prescription, and no matter what she does, she can't seem to keep the house clean. Originally published as a weekly serial in The Wall Street Journal, and continued on its Web site through summer 2001, Crittenden's novel doesn't initially hold much drama beyond Amanda's worries about what to make for dinner. Admittedly, Crittenden is able to pinpoint, with a gentle grace, the small moments of crushing depression that Amanda suffers through, but her heavy-handed tub-thumping unfortunately swamps any positive messages. We know little about Amanda's past except that she used to work at the NEA and that her mother is an unaffectionate, ultra-granola, shrill caricature of a feminist. The only stay-at-home dad here is a weak-kneed loser with a shrieking harridan of a lawyer wife. Then there's the author's obnoxious habit of writing cringe-inducing phonetic dialogue for the children and all foreign characters. Not to worry, though. In the end one can be sure that Bob will realize the evil of his antibusiness trust-busting ways and Amanda won't have to go back to work in order to regain hersense of self. Humorless policy-paper material, as if a right-wing Naomi Wolf were to write a novel. First serial to the Wall Street Journal