Stack writes, unflinchingly, about what it was like for her world to shrink and her life to entwine with the lives of her hired help—who left their own kids behind in order to work in her home. The result is messy, self-critical, probing and fascinating ... She also works to turn her own daily 'postmodern feminist breakdown' into an exploration of the ways that domestic work has and continues to shape women’s realities ... Stack’s writing is sharp and lovely, especially in the first section of the book as she deftly describes her plunge into new motherhood and yearlong journey to find herself again ... the one way the book didn’t fully succeed was in sharing these women’s full perspectives ... In this book, the tough questions Stack asks are of herself.
Memoirs about motherhood are exceedingly common, but Women’s Work dares to explore the labor arrangements that often make such books possible ... Stack writes sharp, pointed sentences that flash with dark insight ... Women’s Work is so full of keen insights and shrewd observations that by the time Stack arrived at her What Needs to Be Done moment, a mere six pages from the end, she had already won me over so fully that I was only mildly exasperated when she landed on this: 'The answer is the men' ... [Stack's] wan conclusion to an otherwise fearless book feels like a bit of a put-on and a bit of a cop-out.
...an uneasy combination. The first quarter or so of Women’s Work is largely a memoir of early motherhood, with all its pain and anxiety, in the tell-it-like-it-is tradition of Rachel Cusk’s A Life’s Work. The final quarter finds Stack in journalist mode, bringing her professional skills to bear on her own story ... Stack does not discuss or acknowledge this history, and the omission manages to work both for and against her. This is not breaking news, you want to tell her. Do the homework. But, at the same time, Stack’s sense of discovery is fresh, her anger is still hot, and these qualities give her story its force ... This makes it hard to look away but also hard not to feel claustrophobic ... You get the sense that these were meaningful encounters for Stack, but as journalism they fall a bit flat ... However formidable Stack’s professional skill, reporting introduces a new power imbalance: She controls the conversation; she controls the story that emerges. And the employer/employee relationship is not so easily set aside ... Stack lets nothing slide when it comes to herself, though; she’s unsparing, even brutal ... There’s bravery in a writer’s willingness to look bad. A genuine reckoning demands it.