Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Book Review: How Hard Can It Be? by Allison Pearson

I read I Don't Know How She Does It back when it came out in the early 2000s. While I didn't personally identify with it (I don't have kids), I did thoroughly enjoy it, and looking back now, and looking at my friends with kids, I truly don't know how they do it. It's hard enough to keep up with my life and I do think I'd collapse in a puddle if I had more people to be responsible for. I don't have any additional bandwidth in my life, and it's kind of amazing that the majority of people think they do. Or at least, get by on little sleep, little money, and lots of stress, and somehow stay functional.

At the time the book was also groundbreaking, because it was squarely aimed at the "chick lit" crowd, even though the protagonist was married with children, instead of single and dating. That was the usual trope after all. This broke new ground with still having a funny main character who got into sticky situations, with quirky friends, a difficult job, and even a bit of romance (a flirtation and possible affair!) It was probably the book that for a lot of young women, along with L'Divorce, showed us there was a wider world that we could still identify with and enjoy, beyond The Devil Wears Prada and Confessions of a Shopaholic.

And she's back! Not just Allison Pearson, but Kate Reddy! It's roughly 15 years later, and her kids are in junior high/high school, her husband is embarking on a second career (well, he's in grad school), her beautiful historical home is crumbling, parents are becoming slightly addled and need help, and most importantly, she must return to work, thanks to aforementioned husband quitting his job to get a Master's degree. (Nothing against that to be sure, as my husband did the same just a few years ago, but it really caught my attention that he just up and did it, without ever talking to Kate and without it being a mutual decision.) Anyway, she's not just been out of the world of work for 15ish years which is hard for most women to hurdle, but also she works in high finance, where it's much, much harder. In the world of investment funds, young is considered better, there's a fair amount of ageism which would have impacted her even if she'd stayed in, which makes it a doubly difficult obstacle to overcome. She does get a job, albeit with her old fund. Not just her old company, but at a fund that she founded and got off the ground and managed spectacularly well. (It's not doing as well these days she noted smugly, but also a little sadly.) Given the penchant for youth, the entire department has turned over, so no one remembers her from the old days, so she can lie about her age. But it's also a tad embarrassing to return to a much more junior job than what she once had. Oh well. She can work her way back up, right?

Meanwhile, her kids are getting into all kinds of trouble, starting off with her daughter having a picture of her butt circulated on social media, and going downhill from there. Her husband is completely useless as he's pretty much not around. The handyman working on her house is terrific but often disappears. She has a cadre of good old friends, and some new ones from a support group for older women returning to work, who act as a bit of a Greek chorus of humor. And then, also, her old flirtation returns! How she has time to get anything done in all this chaos is beyond me. But I sure do enjoy reading about it! It's as hilarious (although the problems are naturally more serious so maybe not at the exact same level) as the first book and if you remember that one fondly, you'll love this long-awaited sequel.

This book is published by St. Martin's Press, a division of Macmillan, my employer.

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