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Thursday, February 09, 2012

Things That Make Me Go Meh

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

As part of ELLE Magazine's Reader's Jury program, I was asked to review two parenting memoirs—Some Assembly Required by Anne Lamott (with her son, Sam) and Making Babies: Stumbling into Motherhood by Anne Enright—and choose which I liked best. A tough job, since the truth is, I didn't care much for either one of them. Is there something about women who become mothers for the first time in their late 30s that just makes them whiny and bitter? Or, is it because these ladies are both tell-it-like-it-is authors who express the things all mothers feel, but don't dare to say out loud? I'm not sure, but sheesh! I'm all for honest, funny takes on the old parenting game, but I prefer them to be light-hearted and uplifting, not gripe-y and depressing.

First published in 2004 (the version I read will be available April 2012), Making Babies actually compares better with Lamott's first memoir, Operating Instructions, which details Lamott's experience as a single, 35-year-old, first-time mother. Like Lamott, Enright is a writer who came to motherhood later in life. After 18 years of marriage, Enright found herself expecting at age 37, then again at 39. Having children, naturally, turned the life of the successful, independent novelist upside-down. Just as naturally, she decided to write about all of those ups and downs, publishing many of her thoughts as essays in European newspapers and magazines. Gathered together in Making Babies, they form an odd, random assortment of musings on babyhood and parenting.

At turns deep, sentimental and strange, the essays run the gamut from thought-provoking to hilarious to just plain old weird. Since there's no real, unifying point to the writings, I found the collection to be a bit too here, there and everywhere for my liking. Overall, I really didn't care for it, although I did find these gems within:

"I thought childbirth was a sort of journey that you could send dispatches home from, but of course it is not—it is home. Everywhere else now, is 'abroad'" (58).

"I can make babies, for heaven's sake, novels are a doddle" (60).

"Children are actually a form of brain-washing. They are a cult, a perfectly legal cult. Think about it. When you join a cult you are undernourished, you are denied sleep, you are forced to do repetitive and pointless tasks at random hours of the day and night, then you stare deep into your despotic leader's eyes, repeating meaningless phrases, or mantras, like Ooh da gorgeous. Yes, you are! Cult members, like parents, are overwhelmed by spiritual feelings and often burst into tears. Cult members, like parents, spout nonsense with a happy, blank look in their eyes. They know they're sort of mad, but they can't help it. They call it love" (148-49).

(Readalikes: Operating Instructions by Anne Lamott)

Grade: C

If this were a movie, it would be rated: R for strong language and sexual content

To the FTC, with love: I received an ARC of Making Babies from ELLE Magazine in exchange for a fair and honest review.


  1. Well, at least there's a cute baby on the one cover. I love that last quote--so I really am a cult member!

  2. Isn't it a great quote? I think reading the book was worth it just for that gem :)


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