Monday, July 5, 2010

The Ten-Year Nap by Meg Wolitzer

The Ten-Year Nap by Meg Wolitzer. Riverhead Books: A Division of the Penguin Group (USA), Inc. March 2009. ISBN #: 9781594483547

"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.

This fictional story reminded this reviewer of the nonfiction account of Gail Sheehy's Passages published many years ago but still incredibly relevant for charting women's social, cultural and psychological journey through marriage, motherhood and meaning in a world caught between the stereotypical roles of the 50s and 60s and the more liberated, shared parenting roles of the current generation. Meg Wolitzer includes all the humor, melancholy and reflective phases inherent in these women's lives, accounts that will serve to become iconic depictions of an almost forgotten era. Work, after all, is activity with purpose, a definition somewhat vaguely appreciated by those participating in the ironic title of The Ten-Year Nap.

Interesting and memorable story!

No comments:

Post a Comment