PLAYING HOUSE by Lauren Slater


Notes of a Reluctant Mother
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A psychologist and nonfiction writer’s frank meditations on how she formed a family and learned to love the people in her life.

Slater (The $60,000 Dog: My Life with Animals, 2012, etc.) explores how she “[came] to the task of mothering” after surviving a “brutal” childhood. Her early experiences, which included a move from her dysfunctional birth family into a foster home, shaped her into an adult for whom control, rather than personal relationships, was most important. “I wanted more than a man, a best friend, a child or talent, I wanted a home, she writes,” since ownership itself represented something “magical.” Despite a “brooding and acerbic and self-consumed” nature and tendencies toward obsessive-compulsive disorder and depression, Slater managed to find love, get married and have children. But she still struggled with a number of issues, including attachment. With candor and self-deprecating wit, she describes the difficulty she had bonding with her infant daughter and the lack of interest she had in sex. A driven career woman, Slater eventually grew to love domesticity. She even became an expert in carpentry, a craft that brought her closer to her husband. For all his liberality toward gender roles in the home, he could not understand that “the domestic arts [were] a combination of mindless tasks and mindful executions.” Slater also discusses her fraught relationship with her own body. She talks openly about combating the frumpiness that emerged in the wake of depression as well as her elective double mastectomy surgery to eliminate the too-large breasts that also carried the genetic threat of cancer. At once revealing and disconcerting, Slater’s work celebrates the endless, though not always easy, rebirths that are possible through family life.

A fiercely, lyrically honest memoir.

Pub Date: Oct. 15th, 2013
ISBN: 978-0-8070-0173-8
Page count: 208pp
Publisher: Beacon
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15th, 2013


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