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Friday, January 18, 2019

Book Review: Small Animals: Parenthood in the Age of Fear by Kim Brooks

I don't have kids. So when a bookstore manager I know well pushed this book on me (published by my own company!), I protested. She said no, I have to read it. We have similar taste, so I took a gander. And I'm so glad I did! I listened to the audiobook and I finished it in three days (on 1.25 speed. She talks slow!)

You may remember hearing about Kim Brooks. She was about to leave her hometown in Virginia after visiting her mother with her kids, and she stopped at Target to replace her son's lost headphones, so he wouldn't throw a fit on the flight to Chicago. He refused to go in the store with her, after having begged to come along on the errand. Faced with him throwing a fit here and now, when she was on a tight schedule, in a safe suburb, on a lovely mid-50s afternoon, outside a Target, in a minivan, she did what millions of parents did in the 1970s and 1980s without thinking twice: she rolled down the windows a bit, locked the doors, and ran in the store for five minutes. While she was in there, someone saw her son in the car (happily playing on grandma's iPad, strapped in his car seat), filmed it, and called the police. But Kim's errand was so fast, she left before the police arrived and the stranger did not make themselves known to Kim when she came back to her car. She picked up her baby, went to the airport, and got on the plane. While in the air, the police contacted Kim's mother, from the license plate, and when Kim landed, her husband was there to meet her, looking grim. Kim eventually faced charges of contributing to the delinquency of a minor (that's all they could pin on her since it isn't illegal to leave your child in the car.)

As she's facing this nightmare situation, she researches, contemplates, reaches out to others, and eventually writes an article about How Did We Get Here. She (and I! and everyone I know!) was left in the car harmlessly dozens of times as a child. Kidnappings weren't rampant back then and have dropped precipitously in the decades since. Kids are safer than ever. And parents are more fearful than ever. What has caused this?

You'll have to read the book to find out, but one fun fact for you: in order for there to be a statistically significant chance that your child will be kidnapped, you would need to leave her alone out on a street corner for 600 years.

This book is published by Flatiron Books, a division of Macmillan, my employer.

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