it's hard when someone sends you, specifically, an ARC. even if you aren't really interested in the premise, you feel obliged to read it. thankfully, thus far, these ARCs have all been pretty good.
so when i got Up for Renewal, by Cathy Alter, i decided to give it a go even though my first impression was "what, another one?!" it seems like there's a spate of these lately -- someone tries 12 diets in 12 months, or 12 self-help methods, or in this case, uses women's magazines to fix one area of life a month. but ok fine, sheesh, i'll read the first 50 pages and then not feel guilty when i don't finish it.
imagine my surprise when i finished it! Alter is a snarky, smart narrator, with no illusions as to the potentially unempowering, vapid nature of her quest. but she says it herself [with my paraphrasing]: even as a feminist in today's world, aren't you tempted? look, they're all glossy and confident ... surely they can fix me!
and ok, sorry, i couldn't resist the above illustration. but this is, in fact, part of what Up for Renewal is all about: the weird and fraught intersection of empowerment and sexuality. Cathy starts out the book as a total mess; having casual cubicle sex (!) with a middle-manager, running after unavailable men, and generally feeling like sh*t after her divorce. her solution? women's magazines! well, ok, to be fair, she knows it's not a solution, but figures it might be an interesting way to start.
and, in fact, it is not only interesting but entertaining! my favorite moment in the book has to be her first assignment: learning to saran wrap a sandwich from Real Simple. yes, it's true. this was hilarious. and the meaning that she finds in it, well ... let's just say that no one else could have pulled off this book premise.
and who of us hasn't been tempted? i have never succumbed, but oh, so tempted. especially when i have those moments when i realize i have four author event shirts and the people who come to these things will eventually notice. this is why i'll be keeping my ARC -- there's a list in there of the 84 essential wardrobe items that i fully plan to utilize once my tax return goes through.
Alter ends up in a wonderful place (getting married to the right guy who is also 10 years younger than her) and acknowledges that it's not the magazines themselves, it's the fact that she worked on changing her life in the first place.
this stuff is addictive, and so is Up for Renewal. keep an eye out for it, it'll be out in July.