AMATEUR HOUR by Kimberly Harrington


Motherhood in Essays and Swear Words
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The modern motherhood memoir in a series of sardonic spoofs.

Creative director and humor writer Harrington reversed the typical American experience of childbearing, working 60-hour weeks while taking care of her newborn children before staying home with them a few years later, when a layoff forced her into freelance work. Using plenty of swear words, as advertised, she chronicles her years on both sides of the mommy wars, tallying the insults of an unenlightened corporate culture and the exquisite tortures of working from home with kids. The narrative features blog-style recollections punctuated with “time-outs”: conceptual interludes featuring hashtags, listicles, pretend dialogues, and quizzes (“Radiohead Song or Accurate Description of My Parenting?”). The least successful of these experiments are still clever, and though her comedic timing often fizzles, the frenzy of styles and self-conscious gimmicks keeps things lively and justifies her career as a professional thrower of ideas at walls. Harrington embraces the bravado and casual irreverence of the advertising industry even as she mocks it, and she never tires of portraying herself as an ill-fitting matriarch, a Don Draper who awoke one day to find himself leading a Girl Scout troop. The author is at her wittiest when transforming her outrage—especially at the sorry plight of mothers in the United States and their “cultural irrelevance” after maternity leave—into absurd, acerbic commentary. Like all effective satire, Harrington’s best bits arise from deep anger, and she reminds readers that, more than meal trains or forced holidays, mothers desperately need policy reform. Too often, her essays switch unexpectedly into truisms and parenting advice for soul-weary breeders, saccharine (if sincere) messages of encouragement that do not pair well with a plateful of sarcasm. Even if many of her observations and experiences prove more common and less funny than the packaging suggests, her quirky, dissenting energy should resonate with parents who find little use for the usual mommy-blogger fare.

Bitterly hilarious in spots.

Pub Date: May 1st, 2018
ISBN: 978-0-06-283874-2
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Perennial/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 2018


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