A journalist describes the years she worked in low-paying domestic work under wealthy employers, contrasting the privileges of the upper-middle class to the realities of the overworked laborers supporting them.
In Maid, Land displays a keen eye for how her clients live, what their houses say about their lives ... More than any book in recent memory, Land nails the sheer terror that comes with being poor, the exhausting vigilance of knowing that any misstep or twist of fate will push you deeper into the hole ... In a way, then, this is a survivor’s tale. But it’s also a cautionary one, not only warning of the fragility of prosperity in a nation where social mobility goes both ways, but admonishing those of us not currently poor to remember the humanity of those who clean our houses, mow our lawns, cook our meals.
Her book is not, however, a treatise on public housing, labor or welfare policy. Land is an expert in her own story, and she wisely sticks to it ... There are no jaunts to colorful destinations to eat, pray or love; no suspenseful moments on the Pacific Crest Trail to keep the narrative moving along. Not much actually happens in Maid except a lot of brutal hours scrubbing appalling bathrooms and some truly bleak scenes of relational discord. Yet the book, with its unfussy prose and clear voice, holds you ... Land doesn’t indulge in diatribes or bog the pages down with obligatory data. She sticks with small details that show the cost of being poor ... [Maid is] one woman’s story of inching out of the dirt and how the middle class turns a blind eye to the poverty lurking just a few rungs below — and it’s one worth reading.
Land’s memoir is not particularly artful. The narration advances with some circularity; the language is often stale. But her book has the needed quality of reversing the direction of the gaze ... Land survived the hardship of her years as a maid, her body exhausted and her brain filled with bleak arithmetic, to offer her testimony. It’s worth listening to.