by Lucy Mangan
Publication Date: November 1, 2021
Publisher: Souvenir Press
From the deep rage of knowing where to find every single thing your husband is looking for to the joy of a friend's longed-for pregnancy, here is the pleasurable stab of fellow feeling you get over drinks with friends. Liz records her ups and downs, including the love of a good cat (up), not being able to find a babysitter (secret up) and the question of what 'we' really means when it comes to fixing the dishwasher (definitely, definitely down).
Spiky, charming and most of all loving, it's a hilarious skewering of the sweetness and nightmare that is modern family life.
This book is the literary equivalent of those visual illusions that psychologists try to hang meaning on depending on what you see – like the one that’s either an old woman or a candlestick. Or is it an old woman / young woman? Anyway, whatever, you know what I mean.
As someone who is voluntarily childless, this book was a hilarious – and I mean laugh-out-loud hilarious – justification that my decision to stick with the furry and feathered walks of life, rather than replicating my own DNA, was the right decision for me (and MT, who came to the same decision long before we met). Her kids are hysterical, but they’re hard work and are constantly opening up avenues of conversation that I’d hurt myself to avoid having. Mangen’s descriptions of child birth should be required reading in human development classes as psychological birth control. I was made to be an Aunt.
There was another – unintended, I’m certain – consequence this book had for me, one that is again tied, I’m equally certain, to our choice to stick with non-human family members, and that’s the lack of suppressed rage that lies as an undercurrent in Liz and Richard’s marriage, that I recognise in the marriages of my friends with children. It’s not all chocolates and roses here at chez zoo by a long shot, but without the stress and pressure of making new humans that will hopefully treat the world better than we have, MT and I have experienced more fun than festering resentment. Of course, I also recognise the near-miracle that he’s one of the 1 in 100,000 men who seem to have been raised without the ingrained gender biases and learned helplessness most are saddled with when it comes to matters of home keeping. Still, the book really gave me a few moments of “do you really appreciate how lucky you are? really, truly?“, which I think constitutes healthy self-reflection.
Putting all that aside, I have to figure out how to get my sister-in-law to read this, because, as the mother of 2, she will appreciate this book for all the opposite reasons: because Lucy Mangen wrote her truth, and she will laugh as she nods her neck stiff in righteous agreement of the trials and tribulations of an all-human family of 4.
I read so much of this out loud to MT (honestly, it’s almost been a nightly story-time around here lately) that he actually insisted I rate this 4.5 stars. As he said, it made us both laugh out loud and the writing was excellent (which gives you an indication of how much I read out loud; he was able to judge the quality of the writing). I’d been thinking more 4 stars, but since he put up with all the reading out loud, I acquiesced.
If you need a laugh, you won’t go wrong with this one.