three-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
35-July-Aug-2008
By: 
Meg Wolitzer
user_rating: 
0

A-The Ten-Year NapMeg Wolitzer, a veteran novelist (The Position, 3.5 of 5 Stars July/Aug 2005; The Wife, 4 of 5 Stars July/Aug 2003), knows the world of women well. In her eighth novel, she examines a new generation of stay-at-home mothers as they search for meaning in post-9/11 New York City.

The Story: Every morning, Amy Lamb, a Manhattan housewife who gave up a promising career as a lawyer when her son Mason was born, drops the 10-year-old boy off at his upscale private school and heads for the Golden Horn Diner to meet fellow stay-at-home moms Roberta, Karen, and Jill. As they sip coffee and poke at scrambled eggs, these women, the heirs to a hard-won, postfeminist world of equality and choice, struggle to conceal the boredom and emptiness that threaten to overtake their lives as their children grow up and their husbands grow cold. Soon enough, Amy’s blossoming friendship with the seemingly perfect Penny Ramsey forces her to confront her dissatisfaction and reexamine her choices.
Riverhead. 368 pages. $24.95. ISBN: 1594489785

Dallas Morning News 4 of 5 Stars
"The novel is entertaining and dead-on. Whether you’re a suburban mom tooling around in a minivan or a sophisticated urbanite with a stroller that costs more than some folks’ cars, there are familiar elements that will make you snicker or grimace." Karen M. Thomas

Miami Herald 4 of 5 Stars
"The Ten-Year Nap takes a leisurely, immensely enjoyable look at the ‘opt-out’ generation as the latest litmus test of how far we have come. … It’s when wittily recording the fraying preoccupations of the female psyche (romance, adequacy, connection) that Wolitzer really plays to her strengths." Elsbeth Lindner

NY Times Book Review 3.5 of 5 Stars
"All this could make for a dreary soup, except that it’s a Wolitzer novel, so it’s very entertaining. The tartly funny Wolitzer is a miniaturist who can nail a contemporary type, scene or artifact with deadeye accuracy." Penelope Green

Seattle Times 3.5 of 5 Stars
"The quartet-of-girlfriends premise initially feels a little formulaic, as if designed for a Sex and the City or Cashmere Mafia TV series (right down to the carefully representative demographics and the regular group breakfasts in a Manhattan restaurant). … Wolitzer’s great ear for dialogue and for insinuating humor into seriousness make this novel a thought-provoking pleasure to read." Melinda Bargreen

Washington Post 3 of 5 Stars
"She weaves in vignettes of marginal South Dakotans and various iconoclastic mothers and muses, subtly showing how women’s individual choices (or lack thereof) are inextricable from the history and future of feminism. … The book occasionally reads like an overly earnest polemic or a chatty episode of The View, but for the most part Wolitzer perfectly captures her women’s resolve in the face of a dizzying array of conflicting loyalties." Sheri Holman

Los Angeles Times 2.5 of 5 Stars
"Her writing abounds with lovely images that capture her characters’ lives—the ‘spackling of peanut butter onto bread’ or coaxing ‘the last of the sunblock from the snouts of bottles.’ But The Ten-Year Nap often sags like an old mattress with the weight of its characters’ earnest discussions about ambition, aging and societal expectations." Heller McAlpin

Boston Globe 1.5 of 5 Stars
"Naming a book The Ten-Year Nap feels like more of a warning than a promise: soporific ahead. Wolitzer is a graceful writer, but if the task of an author is to make her readers care about her characters, she’s missed the mark." Debra Bruno

Critical Summary

In The Ten-Year Nap, as in previous novels, Wolitzer "presents a taxonomy of the subspecies known as the urban female" (New York Times Book Review). This time, she focuses on members of the "opt-out" generation—intelligent, educated women who have renounced careers for motherhood. Though the pace is leisurely and plot developments are few, most critics praised Wolitzer’s appealing characters, evocative prose, and acerbic wit. Others disagreed: "What’s wrong with these women?" grumbled a frustrated Debra Bruno of the Boston Globe. Wolitzer strives to understand her characters rather than lampoon them, and perhaps has more patience with their hesitation and indecision than some readers will. To others, the story may feel familiar. Nonetheless, The Ten-Year Nap is a clever and enjoyable novel on a topic close to many women’s hearts.