I Don't Know how She Does it: The Life of Kate Reddy, Working Mother

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Knopf, 2002 - Fiction - 337 pages
783 Reviews
For every woman trying to strike that impossible balance between work and home-and pretending that she has-and for every woman who has wanted to hurl the acquaintance who coos admiringly, "Honestly, I just don't know how you do it," out a window, here's a novel to make you cringe with recognition and laugh out loud. With fierce, unsentimental irony, Allison Pearson's novel brilliantly dramatizes the dilemma of working motherhood at the start of the twenty-first century.

Meet Kate Reddy, hedge-fund manager and mother of two. She can juggle nine different currencies in five different time zones and get herself and two children washed and dressed and out of the house in half an hour. In Kate's life, Everything Goes Perfectly as long as Everything Goes Perfectly. She lies to her own mother about how much time she spends with her kids; practices pelvic floor squeezes in the boardroom; applies tips from Toddler Taming to soothe her irascible boss; uses her cell phone in the office bathroom to procure a hamster for her daughter's birthday ("Any working mother who says she doesn't bribe her kids can add Liar to her résumé"); and cries into the laundry hamper when she misses her children's bedtime.

In a novel that is at once uproariously funny and achingly sad, Allison Pearson captures the guilty secret lives of working women-the self-recrimination, the comic deceptions, the giddy exhaustion, the despair-as no other writer has. Kate Reddy's conflict --How are we meant to pass our days? How are we to reconcile the two passions, work and motherhood, that divide our lives? --gets at the private absurdities of working motherhood as only a novel could: with humor, drama, and bracing wisdom.

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Insightful humour ... I have just started the book, and am still wondering - when are we going to see the promised triumph - here so far all I see is how hard it is and how much Kate has to compromise. The author tries to make light of it by suggesting at times that Kate is stressing out unnecessarily (like fretting about why the nanny cut her son’s hair while she was abroad on business). Still, reading about “bribing children” with stuff and leaning on TV / junk food to “keep them quiet” does not at all make me envy her lot. I wonder if something will change.
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Yes, it has changed, and we gain a little more sympathy for our heroine. The latter-middle portion is quite riveting and it makes me wonder if the long run-up to that climax would be more interesting reading the second time.
It gave me plenty of laughs, something to think about long after reading it, and I would recommend. Agreed with Kirkus review.

Review: I Don't Know How She Does It: The Life of Kate Reddy, Working Mother

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Oh, this book...I spent 80% of it so aggravated with the heroine that I wanted to throw the thing across the room, and the other 20% laughing at the surprisingly witty prose. There were great one ... Read full review

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About the author (2002)

Allison Pearson, named Critic of the Year and Interviewer of the Year in the British Press Awards, is a weekly columnist in the London Evening Standard and a member of the BBC's Newsnight Review panel. She lives in London with her husband, the New Yorker writer Anthony Lane, and their two children.

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