"I Must Read, Read, and Read. It is my Vocation." - Thomas Merton
This is where I chronicle my reading life. I also blog about writing at Lacey's Late-night Editing.
The postpartum period after giving birth to my first son seems like the perfect time to reread Anne Lamott's "Operating Instructions" -- unfortunately, I gave my copy to my best friend when she was pregnant, having no idea that my own pregnancy was so close at hand. I thought Erdrich's book might serve as a good stand in, which it did to a certain extent.
Unlike "Operating Instructions," this is not really a journal or a traditional memoir but rather a series of loosely connected essays written in the year after the birth of Erdrich's third baby. As a new mother, this format makes total sense to me -- when you are writing in snatches grabbed while Baby naps or you pawn him off on someone else for half an hour, you learn to write "small" or not write at all. While this is undoubtedly part of Erdrich's personal style, I found myself bored by how often she wrote about nature and wanted her to write more about parenting a baby, since that is what drew me to this book. And when she does write about new motherhood, her writing is beautiful, aching, and insightful, whether she is delving into postpartum depression or the travails of sleep deprivation. I always was left wanting more in these sections, as well as in the sections where she wrote about the challenges of maintaining any sort of writing practice at all with a new baby in your orbit. In these moments, I had that wonderful feeling of being fully understood, of having someone give voice to questions, feelings and experiences that I was in the midst of grappling with and not yet able to articulate.
Unfortunately, this comprised only about a third of the book. In addition to the musings on nature, stories about her cats (which I didn't mind in the least), and brief glimpses into the rest of her family life (also interesting), she includes quite a few recipes. I skimmed these because most were far too involved for me to consider making them, but I understood their inclusion because food takes on a whole new level of meaning when you are pregnant and breastfeeding, especially when it is prepared by someone you love.