A memoir about blood and love: how learning more about her period, PMS, PMDD, and the effects of hormones on moods transformed her relationships—to a new partner, to family, to non-blood kin, and to her own body—from the essayist and author of "Women".
In The Red Zone, Caldwell begins boldly, as she often has ... Caldwell teaches a creative writing workshop, which along with her wedding provide a narrative arc to The Red Zone. The betrothal is framed as a triumph of her and Tony’s commitment, which survived the fights that Caldwell engineered while suffering from PMDD. She is savvy enough to know such trajectories hark to Victorian literature, whose women were either wed or dead by the last page ... As much as I appreciate when form delivers meaning, the repetitions in The Red Zone did not always feel fruitful. Recurrence works best when each return to a scene or idea gains further purchase on its meaning, complicating the argument. But The Red Zone is not always deepened by its myriad juxtapositions of Caldwell’s youth as a child of divorce with her current penchant for petty screaming matches while attending to the real hardships of her period. The Red Zone could have been distilled by at least 50 pages without losing its value ... Still, I found myself texting images of certain pages to a friend ... From a literary perspective, the lists are handy but overused as a substitute for more profound reflections on the trial and error of solving a puzzle uninteresting to the capitalist patriarchy.
Along with comic, sometimes infuriating interludes (Caldwell gets her period on her wedding day and then on their delayed honeymoon), Caldwell delves deeply into medical and social aspects of menstruation as well as complex aspects of women’s health, identity, marriage, and family, resulting in a fresh, intimate, and engaging chronicle.
While the graphic physical depictions of menstrual dysfunction many not appeal to all readers, women who suffer from PMDD will take solace in the ups and downs of Caldwell’s journey toward self-acceptance, health, and love. The narrative may also appeal to anyone who suffers frustration and anger in the face of an illness for which they struggle to get an accurate diagnosis, a situation that disproportionately affects women ... Provocatively intimate reading.