Bookworms: The Bitch in the House

Sorry the blog has been so book club-heavy these days. We are deep into packing and this moving thing is a whole new level of horror when it involves 3,000 miles, renting a home sight-unseen, organizing cars and arranging accommodations along the way for two humans and two dogs. Talk about your character building experience. In the meantime I didn’t want to leave you completely high and dry. Plus, summers are for lazy Saturday afternoons spent reading a good book in the sun and drinking lemonade margaritas.

I am far enough removed from graduation day that reading no longer feels like an assignment to me. (NERD ALERT: This explains why you will find me highlighting and annotating my nighttime reading “for fun”.)  Not feeling like school work means that reading once again equals stress relief (hence why I am devouring page-after-page from my summer reading shelf and screen-after-screen on my Kindle).

This month’s “Just for Fun” selection is a gem I just finished:


An anthology of 26 essays by women writers, The Bitch in the House is one of those books that was necessary to read and digest. It’s one of those books that I will recommend to my mother, my sister and my best friends (and I may even try to cajole my husband into reading it). I didn’t love every piece or agree with everything that was said. But as editor Cathi Hanauer pointed out brilliantly in her Afterword, “We women need to share our lives and dilemmas and frustrations, to tell the truth whenever and wherever we can – even if it means contradicting each other, even if it means being called difficult or demanding or bitchy” (p. 279).

Some of the essays (as Goodreads concurs) felt a little whiny to me. On the other hand, I don’t know the authors personally and I tried not to judge. God knows we could all practice empathy a little bit better. Many of them confirmed my fears about motherhood and then with the flip of a page, affirmed that it was still an incredible gift. I struggled with the piece about open marriage, particularly because the author seemed much more reluctant about it than her husband. I loved the concept of the “inner Bitch” and how the writer argued that assertiveness, strong opinions, and yes, anger, were to celebrated rather than suppressed. I laughed out loud (and completely identified) with the essay about the fat lady.

In short, I appreciated the dialogue, the chance to groan or roll my eyes and the chance to applaud loudly. And even when I was frustrated or vehemently disagreed with something I had read, Hanauer’s concluding thoughts still resonated with me. At least we have the chance to talk about this. At least we have the space and the freedom to explore what it means to be mother, daughter, sister, woman. And when we don’t disagree but we can still share our stories, we can enrich our lives and the lives of the women around us.

(And pssst, if you want to read this as part of your own in-person book club, Meg over at A Practical Wedding has some excellent discussion questions to get you going – as well as some of her own thoughts to get you going.)

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