I Don't Know How She Does It: A Comedy about Failure, a Tragedy about Success

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9780099570066: I Don't Know How She Does It: A Comedy about Failure, a Tragedy about Success

Meet Kate Reddy, fund manager and mother of two. A victim of time famine, Kate counts seconds like other women count calories. Factor in a manipulative nanny, an Australian boss who looks at Kate's breasts as if they're on special offer, a long-suffering husband, her quietly aghast in-laws, two needy children and an e-mail lover, and you have a woman juggling so many balls that some day soon something's going to hit the ground. In an uproariously funny and achingly sad novel, Allison Pearson brilliantly dramatises the dilemma of working motherhood at the start of the twenty-first century.

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Allison Pearson's debut novel, I Don't Know How She Does It, is a rare and beautiful hybrid: a devastatingly funny novel that's also a compelling fictional world. You want to climb inside this book and inhabit it. However, you might find it pretty messy once you're in there. Narrator Kate Reddy is the manager of a hedge fund and mother of two small children. The book opens with an emblematic scene as Kate "distresses" a store-bought mince pie to make it appear homemade. Her days are measured in increments of minutes and even seconds; her fund stays organized but her house and family are falling apart. The book is a pearly string of great lines. Here's Kate on lack of sleep: "They're right to call it a broken night.... You crawl back to bed and you lie there trying to do the jigsaw of sleep with half the pieces missing." On baby boys: "A mother of a one-year-old son is a movie star in a world without critics." On subtle office dynamics:

The women in the offices of EMF [Kate's firm] don't tend to display pictures of their kids. The higher they go up the ladder, the fewer the photographs. If a man has pictures of kids on his desk, it enhances his humanity; if a woman has them it decreases hers. Why? Because he's not supposed to be home with the children; she is.
There's inherent drama here: Kate is wildly appealing, and we want things to work out for her. In the end, the book isn't a just collection of clever lines on the theme of working motherhood; it's a real, rich novel about a character we come to cherish. --Claire Dederer

From the Back Cover:

“If you could buy stock in a book, I would stake all my savings on the success of Allison Pearson's new novel, I Don't Know How She Does It. Here, at last, is the definitive social comedy of working motherhood." –Marjorie Williams, Washinton Post

“A sparkling novel about juggling marriage, kids, and job (and getting some sleep) . . . Nearly every female lucky enough to have both a child and a byline . . . has strip-mined Pearson's theme: how to squeeze babies, marriage and a high-powered job into a day that cannot be stretched beyond 24 hours. But Pearson's Kate, a brisk, sardonic, loving world beater, has made it all fresh again.” –Margaret Carlson, Time

“. . . Heartbreaking . . . Anyone who has pumped breast milk in the back of a taxi, or wept quietly into the laundry hamper after arriving home too late for a good-night kiss, will recognize herself in this sharply observed, sometimes painfully sad story about the sordid disparity between the ideal and the reality of 'having it all.'” –Kate Betts, New York Times Book Review

“What makes [Kate's] tale such a hoot are the spot-on details that crowd her life and her brain–and will be familiar to any woman who's ever tried to dress a squirming toddler while calling the office to explain why she's late . . . Pearson has an effortlessly smart style . . . I don't know a man on the planet who would get this book–or a woman who wouldn't.” –Cathleen McGuigan, Newsweek

“The fraught lives of modern women, especially those with children, is a classic theme of the age...But Pearson's book is refreshingly engaging because of the high quality of the prose and her uncanny ability to move from farce to pathos in the course of a single paragraph.” –Sarah Lyall, Vogue
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