A housewife and mother in a Dallas suburb chronicles various changes in her life in this compilation of humor pieces.
Bourland, a Dallas-based writer and NPR broadcaster who mines humor and wit from the ups and downs of everyday living, offers a collection of her essays and columns in this debut. She divides the book into different laundry-themed sections, and in the first part, “Pre-Soak,” she introduces her surgeon husband, her two sons and daughter, and the family dog. In the second, “Normal,” readers will settle into her household’s routine and laugh at observations such as, “There is some sort of cosmic joke that at the exact point at which communication with a teen is at its lowest, the states decree you can sit in a vehicle in a city with horrendous traffic and ‘teach’ your kid to drive.” However, by the third section, “Spin Cycle,” Bourland writes that her husband had an affair that results in divorce, and she must reinvent herself, her family, and her column as a single woman in midlife. In “Second Cycle,” she writes movingly about keeping her family together and developing a career of her own for the first time as well as about dating again—right as her kids are starting to date for the first time. By the end of the book, she’s settled comfortably into the role of a grandmother. Overall, the author does an excellent job of grounding her material in real-life events. For example, as she and her children grow in different ways, she alludes to events such as the Gulf War, President Bill Clinton’s sex scandal, and 9/11, which all shape their perspectives. There are times when the memoir seems a bit quiet, especially in comparison to others that touch on more dramatic subjects, such as alcoholism or abuse. But as Bourland perseveres through hardships and maintains her sense of humor throughout these essays, she remains emotionally accessible to readers, who may recognize themselves in her. In the end, the “ordinary” nature of the author’s story is its greatest asset.
A memoiristic collection that shines with quiet strength.