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I Don't Know How She Does it (Movie Tie-in Edition) [Paperback]

Allison Pearson
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (265 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Aug. 9 2011 Vintage Contemporaries
Now a Major Motion Picture

Delightfully smart and heartbreakingly poignant, Allison Pearson’s smash debut novel has exploded onto bestseller lists as “The national anthem for working mothers.” Hedge-fund manager, wife, and mother of two, Kate Reddy manages to juggle nine currencies in five time zones and keep in step with the Teletubbies. But when she finds herself awake at 1:37 a.m. in a panic over the need to produce a homemade pie for her daughter’s school, she has to admit her life has become unrecognizable. With panache, wisdom, and uproarious wit, I Don’t Know How She Does It brilliantly dramatizes the dilemma of every working mom.

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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 --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

This scintillating first novel has already taken its author's native England by storm, and in the tradition of Bridget Jones, to which it is likely to be compared, will almost certainly do the same here. The Bridget comparison has only limited validity, however: both books have a winning female protagonist speaking in a diary-like first person, and both have quirkily formulaic chapter endings. But Kate is notably brighter, wittier and capable of infinitely deeper shadings of feeling than the flighty Bridget, and her book cuts deeper. She is the mother of a five-year-old girl and a year-old boy, living in a trendy North London house with her lower-earning architect husband, and is a star at her work in an aggressive City of London brokerage firm. She is intoxicated by her jet-setting, high-profile job, but also is desperately aware of what it takes out of her life as a mother and wife, and scrutinizes, with high intelligence and humor, just how far women have really come in the work world. If that makes the book sound polemical, it is anything but. It is delightfully fast moving and breathlessly readable, with dozens of laugh-aloud moments and many tenderly touching ones-and, for once in a book of this kind, there are some admirable men as well as plenty of bounders. Toward the end-to which a reader is reluctant to come-it becomes a little plot-bound, and everything is rounded off a shade too neatly. But as a hilarious and sometimes poignant update on contemporary women in the workplace, it's the book to beat.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
This is a very well written book that as a borderline middle age women I can wholly relate to every experience the main character go through, for every working mother or step mother this is life. Allison Pearson brings to life the everyday mundane and not so mundane rat race of child care, overworking hour's guilt, extended family issues, financial worries, discrimination and sexual frustration that every working mom deals with day in and day out.

Allison Pearson has covered all bases here, Kate, like so many career oriented women are spread so thin across the board that I defy any woman to read this and not relate to at least five issues Kate deals with. It brought some humor to my life and made me realize what is really important. I personally laughed more than a dozen times as Kate pounds her way through life's daily problems. She tries to find an solution for every problem, although sometimes the answers are unorthodox, there is always a tiny bit of silver lining peeking out of the cloud to be grabbed.

As Kate tries to find the delicate balance of a career in high finance, motherhood, friend and wife. She shows not only to herself what is really important to her but what really is important in life. Kate discovers through all her mishaps that staying on top off all the so called priority lists are not such a high priority after all. Keeping up with the neighbors and having an air of complete organization is harder in life than on paper, as she makes lists of things to be done and never really crossing anything off the list in the end she concludes that she really just needs to reassess her lifestyle that she tried to live and live the lifestyle that she can live.
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By A Customer
This book is truly one of the funniest tales of a working mom yet...albeit to the "n-th degree", Kate Reddy sums up the ambition, guilt, passivity, aggression, levelheadedness, and disorganization that we all experience while trying to "have it all". As a working mom-of-one myself with a second child on the way, I found this book to be a satirical look of what it might be like if everything in a working mom's life goes either extraordinarily well or extraordinarily badly!
If you keep in mind that this book is intended to amplify the successes as well as the failures that working moms face both personally and professionally, you'll likely see a little of yourself in every situation she goes through...from finding the time to actually cross items off of her ever-present "Must Remember" list, to confronting the nannny and chickening out, to overlooking an incompetent cleaning lady instead of expending the energy to find another one *right now*, to dealing with sexist comments in a male-dominated industry...you will come away with a finer understanding of all that you do that goes largely unappreciated.
Taking that into acocunt, working moms will find this book and it's cynical tongue-in-cheek commentary a welcome change to the moms-that-have-it-all-and-do-it-well "fiction" available in the self-help section!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Plenty beneath the surface here June 27 2004
By Ken
Superficially, this book is a testament to the heroic efforts of working mothers, struggling to maintain a career in a patriarchal society, while simultaneously living up to the June Cleaver image of the ideal parent. If you were to only read the first few chapters, or if you looked at the blithely superficial review quotes on the back of the dust jacket, you might think that this is all there is to this book.
At first, the book seems so wrapped up in its "I do everything and no one appreciates me" message, it's easy to see how men might dismiss it as "Geez, this sounds like my wife whining", and how women might embrace it as "Geez, finally someone is speaking up for me". In either case, such a simplistic rendering would be a pity, because it might mean missing the real message... which I won't reveal to you, lest I spoil the story's ending.
It would also be a shame to miss the truly brilliant literary aspects of this book. It is chock full of clever allusions and wordplay. You won't find technique like this in your typical Michael Crichton pulp novel.
But for everyone, there is no escaping the heart-wrenching emotion that Allison Pearson is able to convey. It seeps into the writing the way emotion seeps into your head: in a roundabout way, triggered by everyday observations, connected to thoughts and memories. It's sadness and joy mixed together, it's shades of grey, it's the complexity that burdens all of us.
There are a number of people to whom I won't recommend this book, because it's unlikely they would get it. (That includes Newsweek reviewer Cathleen McGuigan, quoted on the back cover as saying: "I don't know a man on the planet who would get this book--or a woman who wouldn't." Umm, Ms. McGuigan, apparently, you didn't get this book, because if you did, you'd appreciate why I did.) But for those who are willing to invest the brainpower and look beneath the surface, I'd say it's well worth the effort.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Funny, sad at times, with a flawed heroine June 21 2004
By A Customer
I was expecting Bridget Jones with kids, but this book turned out to be much more than that. It's the first novel I've read that deals honestly with the impossibility of being completely satisfied at both work and home. With career and parenting both demanding nearly all your time, how do you prioritize?
Other reviewers seemed annoyed that Kate has a prestigious, high-paying job, a saintly husband, and adorable kids, but doesn't seem grateful for any of it -- especially when THEY didn't have all that and were managing just fine. If you're expecting Kate to illustrate the plight of the typical working woman, you will be disappointed. Her situation is much better than most and she is not perfect. She relies on her husband to help with the kids and then resents him for it. She admits to spoiling her kids because she feels so guilty about not being around. At times she even avoids her family to get time on her own. Look elsewhere if you want a virtuous heroine who you can identify with completely.
The real strength of this book is the questions it brings up about parenting, work, and family relationships. From the hundreds of reviews here, it has obviously struck a chord with quite a few people. It's a great book to read with friends and discuss.
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Most recent customer reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars A Turning the Pages Review
You may also read my review here: [...]....

Being a working mom, I immediately thought that this book would appeal to me... Read more
Published on Feb. 14 2012 by Turning the Pages
3.0 out of 5 stars 3 stars- I don't know how she does it
I found this book to be humorous in some parts but it wasn't enough to really engage me in the story. Read more
Published on Sept. 13 2011 by sc77
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly Recommended
My short list of recommendations of new literature is rather predictable: "My Fractured Life" (RENT-generation book of hope, glory and despair as a modern version of... Read more
Published on Feb. 3 2005 by Angie Clusterman
3.0 out of 5 stars I Just Didn't Like Her
Yes, the book is humorous. Yes, the writing is, for the most part, intelligent. But Kate Reddy is just plain impossible to love (or even like). Read more
Published on July 18 2004 by mom2threereaders
5.0 out of 5 stars A must-read
I expected this to be a comical romp, instead I found a wonderful novel that made my heart ache with compassion and understanding. Read more
Published on July 11 2004 by Jill
5.0 out of 5 stars The question burning on every young woman's mind...
Until I read this book, I never questioned that I wouldn't be able to juggle a family with a career. Read more
Published on July 4 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars Laughed Out Loud
This book made me laugh out loud and cry real tears because I actually saw myself now and ten years from now. Read more
Published on June 28 2004 by nicole young
5.0 out of 5 stars I can't wait to see what Kate does next!
This book is a guaranteed laugh for any mother out there -- whether she is a stay-at-home mom or a work-outside-the-home mom who then works-at-home when she gets back home! Read more
Published on June 23 2004 by "epmom3"
2.0 out of 5 stars Last time I read a book recommended by Oprah
I respect and enjoy Oprah but I continually am disappointed in her book picks. I guess we are on different pages so to speak as far as literature is concerned. Read more
Published on June 14 2004
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