I Don't Know How She Does It:
The Life of Kate Reddy, Working Mother

by Allison Pearson


Alfred Knopf, NY, 2002. ISBN 0375414053.
Reviewed by Linda Wisniewski
Posted on 05/09/2003

Fiction: Chicklit

Mothers with full-time jobs hear it often: "I don't know how she does it." The secret, of course, is that "she doesn't." Author Allison Pearson has set her first novel in London, but the dilemma faced by her heroine is the same for working mothers everywhere -- never enough time for all the things we are expected to accomplish.

The chores and roadblocks facing Kate Reddy, successful hedge-fund manager and mother of two small children, will have you longing for a warm bubble bath or trying Kate's favorite stress reduction technique -- shoe shopping. Deftly lacing her story with humor, Pearson shows what life is like for the typical working mother. The standards she sets for herself are impossible to meet. As the novel goes on, we see that these are society's standards that millions of women have adopted, stay-at-home moms and working moms alike. As one character says, "In order to keep going in either role, you have to convince yourself that the alternative is bad."

Pearson shows us with humor and compassion that in today's world, both alternatives are equally bad. Women who want to have it all must also do it all, at home and at the office. Women with careers must work harder and longer than men to reap the same rewards or step onto the dreaded Mommy Track, where "you can travel for hundreds of miles...before you notice you're going nowhere."

The characters of the spoiled nanny, the seductive American client, the philosophical cab driver and the na´ve young protégé are so fully developed you'll believe they're real. In the end, like a true heroine, Kate uses her intelligence and creativity to deal with the office chauvinist and finds a solution for her divided loyalties that will leave you cheering.

It's more than just a good story, however. This book shows the pros and cons of both alternatives -- working in the home and outside it; and it opens the door for dialogue among all women.

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