A self-described “goofball” cheerfully reflects on life.
Taking up from where she left off in her last essay collection, Mastromonaco (Who Thought This Was a Good Idea?, 2017), Barack Obama’s former White House deputy chief of staff for operations, gathers essays, random thoughts, and interviews that add up to a merry gloss on politics, campaign work for John Kerry and Obama, her stint in the White House, dating (a guy who collected Beanie Babies, for example) and breaking up, watching Friends and Sex and the City, the health problem—irritable bowel syndrome—she wrote about in the previous book, how social media has changed politics, and many other topics, including Donald Trump. Although she was scolded by Amazon reviewers for TMI, she can’t help but return to the IBS theme, warning readers who may not “appreciate knowing the details of strangers’ gastrointestinal lives” to skip to her essay on getting her period. “I’m a forty-two-year-old woman with the diet of a picky seven-year-old and the bathroom habits of a seventy-two-year-old. What can I do but talk about it?” She also discusses her long, initially futile search to find comfortable underwear, which ended, happily, with “Gap stretch-cotton hipsters, size large.” The essays are interspersed with lists: favorite songs, things you should never say to your boss, what’s in her suitcase; and interviews with Susan Rice, Monica Lewinsky (a dear friend), Dan Pfeiffer (her Platonic Life Partner), and Chelsea Handler. The brief conversations are as frothy as the essays. Pfeiffer tells her that “the key to any lifelong friendship/platonic partnership is trust.” Rice encourages young women to “do what you are passionate about.” Mastromonaco surely has followed that advice, and in looking back on her career, she reflects thoughtfully on her decision not to have a child. Most pieces are funny and many, insightful. “If I’ve learned anything in my life,” she writes, “it’s that the line between nonsense and wisdom is very thin.”
An entertaining miscellany by a sharp-eyed observer.