Kirkus Reviews QR Code


Tales from a Happy Life Without Kids

by Jen Kirkman

Pub Date: April 16th, 2013
ISBN: 978-1-4516-6700-4
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

A comedian’s memoir belabors the point about her never wanting to have children.

It’s a credit to the author—a comedian and comedy writer best known for her work with Chelsea Handler and on the Internet series “Drunk History”—that her debut book is more ambitious than the usual attempt to extend the brand by transferring bits into print. Except for the parts that she directly quotes from her stand-up routine, this book stands on its own, and the best of it provides engaging reading even for those who have never seen or heard of the author. The problem is that its main hook—“The way most people feel about loving being a parent is exactly how I feel about not being a parent”—is made early and repeated often, as if the author feels the need to defend her childlessness against a constant barrage of criticism. Though she does show that strangers and casual acquaintances sometimes equate childless with “selfish,” none of those close to her seem to question her decision. Her parents support her, her sisters (one childless) support her, her husband and in-laws (now ex-) are fine with it, and her friends and fellow comedians have often reached the same conclusion. So whatever support this broadside might offer to those similarly committed to not having children, it really seems more like a peg for a book proposal, something that might aid publication and promotion of a work by a comedian less renowned than so many other comedians who have written books. As she admits in her thanks to Chelsea Handler, “Let’s be honest. Nobody was buying my book ideas before I became part of your show(s).” Kirkman attempts to interweave the manifesto with memoir, which is particularly appealing during its early, naïve, rites-of-passage stages.

The author seems likable enough, but her basic premise could have been condensed into a magazine article. For childless readers who fear that others think they are selfish.