Former US News & World Report senior editor Thomas (Buy, Buy Baby: How Consumer Culture Manipulates Parents and Harms Young Minds, 2007) examines the zeitgeist of her generation in this compelling memoir.
“For most of my generation—Generation X—there is only one question,” she writes. “ ‘When did your parents get divorced?’ ” The author castigates the self-absorption of her own parents, who even before the dissolution of their marriage neglected her and her younger brother, virtually abandoning them to the care of live-in babysitters. “One of the things I have always despised so intensely about Boomers and their divorces was how breathtakingly egocentric they were,” she writes. “They were so eager to trade in their children's very sense of safety in the world for access to an unfettered sex life and a sense of ‘personal fulfillment.’ ” The author blames her parents for her adolescent slide into a punk-rock subculture. At 19, she pulled herself together, enrolled in college and became a workaholic in pursuit of a career in journalism. She met Cal, her husband-to-be, at her first full-time job at a computer magazine. They lived together for six years, then married and had two children—divorcing in 2007 to her intense dismay. Until the birth of her children, she was bedeviled by an inner sense of worthlessness and depended upon her husband for emotional support. Their married life was built upon their devotion to their children—she scaled down her career, and they both worked from home—but as a couple they drew further apart. Thomas chronicles how, despite her critical view of consumer culture, they became enmeshed in home ownership and what she describes as nest-building. Major events such as 9/11 are only touched on as they impinge on her family and providing a secure environment for children.
The author sheds light on an unresolved, multigenerational crisis in American family life, typified by the divorce rates.