Sunday, June 18, 2017

Book Review-ish: Confessions of a Domestic Failure

I started reading a new novel this weekend called “Confessions of a Domestic Failure” by Bunmi Laditan. It’s amusing and fast-paced, however, I find myself contending with a small but growing distraction in the narrative.  I’m usually pretty good at suspending disbelief and throwing myself headlong into works of fiction, even if I have to mentally gloss over a few plot holes or inconsistencies here and there. But this particular bugaboo is starting to annoy me to the point of frustration. The heroine of the novel, Ashley Keller, once had some sort of high-flying corporate job before she found herself laid off, then soon after pregnant. She’s now a struggling (to put it lightly) stay-at-home mom who is “comically” scattered and disorganized. Laundry hilariously piles up, potato sprouts rage out of control in the pantry, and she seems to have some sort of chronic personal hygiene issue. It’s all very Bridget Jones, but I’m about thirty percent into the book, and I can’t help but be a bit flummoxed by this woman’s total lack of executive function. I’m going to say something now that will probably make moms everywhere want to descend on me with pitchforks, but…seriously. This character has one—one, eight-month-old daughter. She seems to have abundant financial resources and no job or obligations outside the home. Yet she is absurdly overwhelmed and has zero ability to hold things together in even the most rudimentary way.

Now, if she was a ditzy scatterbrain prior to having a baby, this is would be a little more believable. But it’s hard to fathom that a former corporate executive wouldn’t at least have some inkling of how to transfer time management skills to the home front. I’ve never had a baby, so what do I know? Maybe some permanent hormonal shift suddenly makes you lose years of learned skills or decimates your ability to prioritize, but I find it a little bit hard to swallow that the minute this woman is removed from the office suite and plopped into a living room with a child, she reverts to inane levels of incompetency. I ( I mean me, come on,) find myself mentally yelling at her to get her sh*t together. I know she has a child, but for Cripes Sake. Does a baby really it make that hard to pop a load of clothes in the dryer or wash a dish occasionally? Even eight-month-olds sleep now and then, don’t they?

For you moms out there who want my head, in my defense, I grew up in large-ish family and took care of lots of little siblings, so I know it’s not easy. I understand that even one baby is a major and exhausting endeavor. But if I met this character in real life, I would wonder if her incompetency was perhaps a passive-aggressive ploy to cope with her resentment of being taken out of the workforce. I’d like to add that I became neither a great mother or a high-flying corporate careerist, so I’m not one to judge…except as a reader of an otherwise entertaining book that is blemished by this one deux ex machina of unrealistic ineptitude.

However, the book is brilliant at skewering the cult and culture of perfectionism around motherhood. The author really shines when taking on the over-the-top, corporate-driven push to prey on the anxieties and insecurities of middle and upper-middle class mothers who are brainwashed into believing that parenting is an extreme sport, and any minor lapse in judgement will cause their child to end up on the stripper pole with heroin needle jutting from their arm. Now that I’ve aired my frustration with the book’s narrative, I think I can probably finish it and appreciate its gifts rather than being distracted by its flaws.

Otherwise, I don’t have much else to say except that I am secretly loving the ultra-cool and rainy June we’ve been having here in the Pacific Northwest. I figure that true to tradition, things will turn on a dime after July 4th and we’ll have to contend with the same hot, sticky climate that the rest of the of the country does, but for now, I don’t mind the gray skies and cool drizzle one bit.

-Kristen McHenry


Nancy Harris said...

Kristen, A contemplative review of Motherhood describing the post-executive wife. Enjoyable reading; good analysis.

Nancy Harris said...

Kristen, Thanks for posting a contemplative review of Motherhood describing the post-executive wife. Enjoyable reading; good analysis. Keep on writing and reviewing!

The Good Typist said...

Thank you for reading, Nancy! I appreciate it. I'm glad you enjoyed the post.

Jeannine Hall Galiey said...

I have similar problems with LOTS of books with exactly that plot. See: Maria Semple's Where'd You Go, Bernadette and even worse in her latest, Tomorrow Will Be Different. I'm like, well, this person and her child would realistically be dead if she was this insane/incompetent.
What's weirder is, this isn't even just a problem with "mommy lit." It happens with all kinds of chick lit - the heroines are so incompetent as to be unbelievable, no matter what stage of life or other accomplishments they supposedly have. Is this to make them more likable? Are competent human women not allowed to be characters?????
pet peeve rant ended.