First-time memoirist Monroe takes everyday topics and elevates them into thoughtful, often emotional essays illustrating the joys and pitfalls of a woman struggling with work, marriage and motherhood.
As a mother of four, Monroe looks back upon her life with clear eyes. She has suffered through dozens of emergency-room visits, household catastrophes and sibling squabbles. As a result, toddler tantrums don’t faze her, a traveling husband becomes a chance to develop her independence and sullen teenagers provide comic relief in an otherwise staid household. These essays visit common themes—a burned dinner, a strange noise coming from the dishwasher, that always-missing sock from the laundry—yet Monroe’s insights into being a modern woman ring true. Any stay-at-home mother seeking employment can relate to the author’s observations, especially when she notes how employers downplay the skills she gained as a household engineer. “In spite of your having juggled roles and tasks as a mother of four, prospective employers will be convinced that your mind had mildewed in your absence from the workforce,” she notes. There are gems like this throughout, especially in chapters about George, Monroe’s idea of the perfect laundry robot, and “Life Changers,” which outlines how inventions like nonstick pans and self-defrosting freezers have revolutionized domestic life. The chapter “I Don’t Volunteer” is full of chuckles, especially when Monroe describes how she chastises a particularly petulant child during a Thanksgiving pageant. “ ‘If you don’t behave, I’ll march you straight down the aisle to your parents,’ I hissed. Then I sedately led him back to the altar. God forgives volunteers.” Anyone who has raised her own brood will appreciate Monroe’s wit, affection for her faults and appreciation for how much happiness her family has brought her over the years.
This candid look at running a household mixes Erma Bombeck-worthy insight with warmth and humor.