First fiction from a well-known advice-giver to mothers (What Our Mothers Didn’t Tell Us, 1999), and the founder of Women’s Quarterly.
Simply giving up her job isn’t enough to make our titular heroine happy. She’s a harried Washington, DC, mother raising two small children; her husband, Bob, is enmeshed in his job at the Justice Department—currently cranking up a major antitrust case against Microsoft-esque corporation MegaByte—and, not surprisingly, doesn’t notice that Amanda is heading toward a breakdown. Moreover, all the mothers she knows are wealthier than she, her son is on the fast track to a Ritalin prescription, and no matter what she does, she can’t seem to keep the house clean. Originally published as a weekly serial in The Wall Street Journal, and continued on its Web site through summer 2001, Crittenden’s novel doesn’t initially hold much drama beyond Amanda’s worries about what to make for dinner. Admittedly, Crittenden is able to pinpoint, with a gentle grace, the small moments of crushing depression that Amanda suffers through, but her heavy-handed tub-thumping unfortunately swamps any positive messages. We know little about Amanda’s past except that she used to work at the NEA and that her mother is an unaffectionate, ultra-granola, shrill caricature of a feminist. The only stay-at-home dad here is a weak-kneed loser with a shrieking harridan of a lawyer wife. Then there’s the author’s obnoxious habit of writing cringe-inducing phonetic dialogue for the children and all foreign characters. Not to worry, though. In the end one can be sure that Bob will realize the evil of his antibusiness trust-busting ways and Amanda won’t have to go back to work in order to regain her sense of self.
Humorless policy-paper material, as if a right-wing Naomi Wolf were to write a novel.