by The Inmate
a review of
I Don’t Know How She Does It: The Life of Kate Reddy, Working Mother
by Allison Pearson
Alfred A. Knoph, 2002
$23.00 hardback 338 pages
“There’s nothing left to love, Rich, I’m all hollowed out. Kate doesn’t live here anymore.”
What has corporate culture done to us? What has it done to women? What has it done to men? What has it done to children? Why have we let it do the things that it has with little or no resistance? It is possible that the next great power that the citizens of the world will have to battle against(and what many are already battling) will not be a political system or a tyrant, but the ascendance and proliferation of not simply corporations, but the customs and traditions intrinsic to corporate culture.
For those who still doubt that that culture is detrimental Allison Pearson’s novel, I Don’t Know How She Does It, offers strong and convincing reasons to finally get off the fence on the side of reality—-not wishful thinking. Pearson’s critique is satiric, dark, funny and true. Kate Reddy lives in London and is a hedge-fund manager who is very successful. This is her life, but it is also about the lives of her children, the life of her husband, the lives of her colleagues and the lives of her friends. It is about the ways in which corporate tentacles wind and weave their way into our living rooms, our kitchens, our bedrooms(and our beds) and worst of all into our minds.
One of the hideous things about corporate culture is that it has successfully invaded the psyche of working people so that so much of what they do for the corporation is done out of a false sense of necessity or out of guilt. It’s self-induced torture. We are administering our own poison and no one stops to wonder what’s killing us. We’ve been told that working is the best way to contribute to society and the best way to find contentment and self-worth. It’s a lie; it’s a damned lie.
Kate Reddy is a woman who is searching, who, at times, doesn’t realize she is searching, but she has a profound dissatisfaction with life. Who wouldn’t? She works like crazy traveling the globe trying to placate clients who are worried about their money while at the same time attempting to be a good mother or at least to present that appearance. In the opening scene of the novel she is “distressing mince pies” so that other mothers will not know that she purchased them at a grocery store. Kate Reddy misses her children, feels guilty for not being with them enough, but still wants her career and, understandably, wants to be a fulfilled person. In the process, however, she’s losing her children, her husband and herself. Will she achieve contentment? Can she in this environment?
This is an excellent novel. If you are a professional working woman with children this is a must read. If you don’t have children it’s a must read. It’s a must read for professional working men too. Hell, it’s just a must read for anyone who works. You will smile at the email exchanges. You will cringe at Kate Reddy’s honesty with herself. You will laugh and sigh at the dark humor. You might even cry. I teared up a couple of times, but I’ll never admit it because I’m a man. There are also some really funny men jokes in this novel. For example, this one in an email message:
Q: Hw many men ds it tk to scrw in a lightbulb?
A: One. He just holds it & waits for the world to revolve arnd him.
If you like The Corporate Asylum it’s a good bet you’ll enjoy this novel. So, if you’re at work, get online and order it. If you’re not at work—that’s just silly—of course you’re at work—you’re an American or a Brit or a German or an Aussie or a Brazilian or a Rumanian or a . . . . —where else would you be?