Ten Year Nap, by Meg Wolitzer – Book Review

The Ten Year Nap, by Meg Wolitzer The Ten Year Nap, by Meg Wolitzer
Publisher:  Riverhead Trade
Publication Date:March 3, 2009
Format: Trade Paperback, 400 pages
Rating: Just Okay

Last year I read The Wife, by Meg Wolitzer and absolutely loved it. I picked it up on impulse at the library.  I had heard of Meg Wolitzer before, but I had never read any of her work. I was blown away by the humor and the insight that she brought to her portrayal of a fed up stay at home wife and mother on the brink of divorcing her famous author husband; on the eve of his acceptance of a prestigious literary award, no less.  I mention this last novel here because it definitely played into my expectations, and it seems as if the Ten Year Nap is an expansion of the issues explored in The Wife, but with the next generation and encompassing multiple characters and points of view.

The women in The Ten Year Nap all worked before they had their children, and having had various degrees of success in their chosen careers, they all decide to stay home from work for a time after the birth of their children.  Each planned on returning to work as soon as they reached some vague and indefinable moving target in their heads.  That day never comes; ten years have passed and none of them have gone back to work.

Main characters, Amy Lamb and Jill Hamlin, are best friends and have known each other since college. They along with slightly lesser characters Roberta Sokolov (a former artist turned puppeteer) and Karen Yip (a former mathematician who tries to turn all of her life situations into a math problem), meet over the years at a local diner  after having dropped their kids off at school- as much to have something to do as to keep up on the goings on in their lives- comparing experiences, children and husbands.  Cracks are starting to appear amongst the friends when Amy becomes obsessed with super wealthy working mom Penny, and Jill (who has left the city for the suburbs) struggles with whether she loves the strange and troubled child whom she has adopted from a war torn Eastern European country.

As much as I thought it would be about the women sharing their experiences with each other, this was also a very internal book- with the women spending a lot of time considering their choices and what has gotten them to their present state of ennui. While I won’t say that the characters are indistinguishable from each other, their level of dissatisfaction with their lot in life is, and it was hard for me to be interested in them for long because their state of mind was grating and essentially the same.  My favorite between the choices before me was Karen, who is in a fulfilling marriage and takes time every now and again to interview for position which she will never take simply because she enjoys the distraction.

As much as they pick over their worries in their heads and run errands, nothing really happens and I felt like the book got bogged down in inertia.  The sections exploring their lives are interspersed with snippets of the dynamic lives of women of the previous generation (a lot of time the mothers of Amy, Jill, Roberta and Karen) which are in deep contrast with the lives of the four friends.  While I understood the point was to draw attention and distinguish between the lives and choices of the two generations, it was also very distracting to have the profiles competing for attention with what was already going on in the story.  Four characters with attendant children,  husbands, and former careers were enough to keep me going.

After trailing interest for most of The Ten Year Nap, things started to pick up around the last hundred pages or so when the women started interacting with each other more and  making decisions about their lives.  Wolitzer’s writing is still smart and humorous but it all felt a little flat in this novel. I enjoyed those last pages more, but they came too late for them to turn this one around.  All that being said, if you manage to read the whole book I think it would be a great discussion book for a book club or family member if you are like me and force people to read books with you.

About The Author:

Meg Wolitzer is the author of seven previous novels, including The Position and The Wife. Her short fiction has appeared in Best American Short Stories and The Pushcart Prize. She lives in New York City.

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Have you been disappointed with a favorite author lately?  If so, why do you think that is?  Is it them or is it you? If you haven’t been disappointed lately, what do they continue to do what works for you? Should I bold these questions at the end? I have before but I don’t know if it’s necessary. Talk to me people, I really want to know.

Have you reviewed The Ten Year Nap, by Meg Wolitzer? Please e-mail me your link or leave it in the comments, I’d love to have it here.

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  1. Fantastic review! Sounds like a very emotional story, but I can see where you would easily get bogged down with all the similar, unhappy storylines. Honestly, it sounds… sad! I seem to be reading a lot of novels lately dealing with women’s issues — and “Mommy guilt.” Not the most uplifting topic. 🙂 But I think I’ll try The Wife, too — Wolitzer does sound like a great writer!

  2. I think I will pick up a copy of The Wife. That sounds like a fabulous read. I’m not sure about this one.

    I haven’t been disappointed lately with a favorite author. I’m not sure why that is – I’ve been reading a lot of backlist titles lately and I guess each one has been consistent in delivering what I expect in terms of plot and characters. Should you bold your questions at the end? I saw them, so it’s working for me whether you bold or not! 🙂

    Belle’s last blog post..On Writing: Insomnia Isn’t an Excuse

    1. I haven’t given up on Meg yet. I plan on reading The Position, which I believe she wrote right before The Ten Year Nap. I’m not sure of the order. It could be to that this book is a total Rorschach test and I am just too happy to relate right about now.

  3. I don’t know if you are at the right place in your life to appreciate this book. Although many people who are at that place didn’t like it either. We read this for my book club and had very differing opinions on it. It was one of our best discussions in seven years.

    Julie P.’s last blog post..Review: Last Night in Montreal

  4. I have been hearing a lot about this book for awhile now, and my book group almost chose it last year. I really enjoyed your review and your honesty. Though the subject matter and set-up sound interesting, I think I would also be irritated by a full set of characters who are all dissatisfied with their lives! Thanks for the great review –


  5. I’d seen this book a few times and wondered if it would appeal to me. As a mom who left a career to stay home with my kids, the subject matter definitely appeals but it was a toss-up whether it would work for me. You gave me just the information I needed to make that decision. Thanks!

  6. great review, thanks for linking to mine.
    I enjoyed this one myself. I do agree, toward the end it got better.

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