Jessica Grose combines a journalist’s perspective with ferocious personal candor to lay bare the subject of motherhood in America ... One of the book’s most fascinating passages relates the experience of Eliza, a mother in the 1800s, who writes to her mother about her postpartum agony ... It’s always mothers who are asked to do the work — the very same people who may be most strapped for time, financially strained and exhausted. This notion feels almost reactionary amid the bolder ideas this book champions. Then again, mothers are the ones who truly understand the stakes.
Fierce, timely, unflinching ... Her book is equal parts memoir, journalism, cultural criticism and manifesto, and it would make an excellent holiday gift for a loved one who is considering having a child and really shouldn’t ... Grose bases these conclusions on not just her own experience but also extensive interviews and research ... It’s a disturbing and important story, and Grose tells it in an engaging and relatable style. By this final section, though, I found myself wishing she’d probed more deeply into the systemic, ideological roots of the crisis and the political contradictions that exacerbate it.
Grose covers topics like the idealization of motherhood, how to look at Instagram without feeling terrible, and what happened when the catastrophe of a still-unfolding pandemic met our already catastrophic lack of national support for caretakers of all types. It’s hard to imagine a mother (or other) who won’t feel seen somewhere in Grose’s accessible, empathetic, data-driven report.
We sense Grose is a work in progress, but she refrains from making a deeper dive into her own psyche. We don’t hear her questioning her desire to conform and succeed and be well-liked; it still sometimes seems enough for her that she figure out how to do so. The same can be said about her evolving feelings about motherhood ... Ultimately, Grose is a very engaging writer, but one is not certain she has fully absorbed that it really is her life, and her life alone. She is free to design it. She doesn’t need to explain it to anyone. Or photograph it nonsensically and continue to send fraudulent images into an increasingly hostile world.
Stirring ... Grose is candid about her own experience as a mother, and moving stories from other women who have felt the weight of 'unrealistic, elitist, and bigoted expectations' add heft to her survey. Mothers struggling to keep their heads above water will find camaraderie in this empathetic outing.
Grose’s fiery compassion is matched by her profoundly complex understanding of the material and her trenchant, witty prose. Although she consciously includes the voices of diverse, modern mothers, her analysis is sometimes more relevant to White, heterosexual, cisgendered mothers, particularly in the historical sections. Still, the author is clear in her intent to be inclusive, and her topic is relevant and worthy of discussion ... A deeply researched and highly relatable analysis of American motherhood, past and present.