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How Hard Can It Be?

Review

How Hard Can It Be?

In the summer of 2018, it seems that everything old is new again. I’m not talking about the fashions or the music, but the fact that three of the biggest books being published early this summer feature authors revisiting beloved characters whom we first met 15 years ago. Lauren Weisberger returns to the milieu of THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA in her new novel; YA author Carolyn Mackler offers a long-awaited sequel to her breakout book, THE EARTH, MY BUTT, AND OTHER BIG ROUND THINGS; and now Allison Pearson revisits her beloved character Kate Reddy, heroine of the groundbreaking and bestselling 2003 novel, I DON’T KNOW HOW SHE DOES IT, to check in on how the frazzled professional mom is handling her hectic life now that she’s pushing 50.

The answer? Not that well, honestly. As the novel opens, Kate is shocked to discover that her sweet teenage daughter Emily has achieved instant social media notoriety for snapping a naked “belfie” (that’s a selfie of one’s bum), which her so-called best friend then turned viral. Emily’s younger brother, Ben, has turned into a typical teenage boy, i.e., sullen, uncommunicative and obsessed only about how to get his hands on the next-generation PlayStation. As for Kate’s husband, Richard, he has quit his job to retrain as a counselor, although from what Kate can see, he mainly spends his newfound free time riding his hideously expensive bicycle through the countryside near their home.

"HOW HARD CAN IT BE? offers frank, funny, often cringe-worthy hilarious insights into what it means to be a capable, ambitious woman in mid-life."

As for Kate? After stepping back from her highly lucrative and high-status finance job, she’s been making ends meet (barely) with a series of freelance consulting gigs, when she’s not shuttling the children to various events, caring for her and Richard’s aging parents, or overseeing the renovation of the money pit that is her and Richard’s newly acquired Victorian home in the countryside. Kate adores the house, but she doesn’t adore how much it’s costing to fix up, let alone Richard’s continual snide comments suggesting that the boondoggle was all her fault. Meanwhile, Kate, who turns 50 in a few months and is wrestling with the unpleasant and sometimes embarrassing side effects of perimenopause, realizes that if anyone is going to save her family from financial jeopardy, it’s going to have to be her.

Much to the delight of her Women Returning support group (a group of mid-life women trying to reenter the workforce), Kate eventually lands a maternity replacement position at her old investment firm --- by falsely claiming to be 42 on her CV. Virtually everyone at her workplace would have been in primary or secondary school the last time Kate was employed, so she’s not too worried about being caught. And even though the nonstop dissembling is exhausting, Kate soon comes to enjoy the chance to exercise some of her old professional skills. But when a name from Kate’s past --- a name she both longed and dreaded to hear from again --- pops up in her inbox, she must make some key decisions. Is it possible to get a second chance? And will she make the right choices this time?

HOW HARD CAN IT BE? offers frank, funny, often cringe-worthy hilarious insights into what it means to be a capable, ambitious woman in mid-life. Pearson, whose previous novel about Kate resonated with working mothers of young children, clearly continues to recognize the issues that occupy --- and terrify --- women like Kate. Although Kate’s story forthrightly explores the frustration and awkwardness surrounding parenting teenagers, caring for elders, coping with a time-worn marriage, and coming to terms with one’s own mortality (and sagging flesh), it also celebrates the resilience of mid-life women, the challenges and joys of making new friends in middle age, and the knowledge and skills that can only be gained through experience.

The book stands alone, whether or not you have read its predecessor. Either way, readers will be pleased to meet Kate --- or to renew their acquaintance after a decade and a half away.

Reviewed by Norah Piehl on June 8, 2018

How Hard Can It Be?
by Allison Pearson

  • Publication Date: June 5, 2018
  • Genres: Fiction, Humor, Women's Fiction
  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • ISBN-10: 1250086086
  • ISBN-13: 9781250086082