Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Book Review: Jump At The Sun by Kim McLarin

For some time now, authors have made it very difficult for me to follow through on my intention to review the books that I read, by writing books that left not a lot to say about them. Or only negative things to say which makes me look catty. Whenever I read another predictable boring book, I think “I can’t believe that got published! I could write a book if this is the standard!”. Then I remember that I can’t even commit to getting a paragraph out on my blog more than once a week. If that.

Anyway, finally I read a book that was intriguing enough to mention. The book is called Jump At The Sun by Kim McLarin. I’m not getting paid to summarize the plot for you (for that, you can go read all the budding book critics over on Amazon.com who fall all over themselves trying to outdo one another in plot summaries) but to set the framework, the story is about this professional and accomplished married woman with two young children who is struggling to find contentment in her life, who apparently yearns to be free to focus on her work, or at least do as she wishes. In addition to this story line, there is a parallel story line of her ancestors who were slaves, and some of those relatives also seemed to have the anti-settle down gene.

I have a love hate relationship with dual story lines in that it’s kind of a free second story, but it’s also one more thing to keep track of. Given that I usually have to read these in stops and starts, sometimes I can’t remember who is who with just one story, never mind two. And so it is with this book, there are a lot of characters to keep track of and it can get a little muddled. Especially in the historical story line.

This book has a unique story line, which makes it worth reading. It’s clearly not the 500th remake of Bridget Jones Diary, which a lot of authors apparently aspire to (note to them: It’s been done. Please stop.). However, as a warning, this book can be a little harsh for doting parents out there, like me. The woman in the story says she loves her kids, but clearly the less glamorous, tiring, frustrating things about parenting weight more heavily in her mind. It’s a little shocking to read about a mother who is not endlessly devoted or charmed by their children. However, in its darkness, I did find some things I identified with. She is an expert in the frustrations of raising children and she is very proficient in articulating the moments when you think your head is going to explode if your child repeats himself one more time (you know what I mean if this sounds familiar: “I want yogurt. I want yogurt. I want yogurt. Mommy, I want yogurt. I want yogurt...”).

She writes about how as parents, you will be surprised at your behavior occasionally when it comes to children. I suppose she is right that you would never screech like a manic and come within inches of spanking the behind of someone who was NOT your child, but then again, speaking from experience, young children are not regular adult people. Regular adult people don’t laugh when you stub your toe, or pitch a fit when you are trying to drag in heavy groceries from the car, during a hailstorm, while 8 months pregnant, after a full day at work, because they want a purple popsicle RIGHT NOW. For me personally, there are days when I wish I had a camera on me in the house to show off my endless patience, my careful teaching and purposeful interaction, and other days I stick my screaming or misbehaving kid in his crib in the middle of the day and close the door for 5 minutes to avoid having a serious meltdown of my own. At those moments, I know why I have not been signed up to star in my own reality TV series about successful parenting.

For me, it was hard not to project from the woman in the story to the author herself, however unfair that might be. I knew from her writing she had children. “Research” I’m sure is a great tool, but there are some things you can only know by having been there, and I see it in this writing. There are also thoughts in there that I definitely have never had and you can’t help but worry about how someone would even know they existed enough to write them. This is a terrible explanation, but you will know what I mean if you read it. As I was reading, I couldn’t help but feel bad that this person (author or character?) had the dutiful love, but was also consumed with the resentment and frustration. I can’t imagine life without my child, however hard it may sometimes be. Despite the inherent sacrifices of having children, it is by far the best thing I have done. If I think back to the happy highlights of life, my wedding or falling or love or the feeling as a teenage girl heading off with all my friends for a big night out or anything where you get the sense of happiness and optimism about life at that moment, having a child has brought those moments to me sometimes 100 times a day in short bursts. The most random things will bring them out- the way their hair glints in sun, the way they wrinkle their nose when they are thinking hard, or the funny thing they say at dinnertime. Whatever it is, they bring these bursts of happiness that are like a drug. They get you through the hard work of children and they are completely addictive. The love is overwhelming and it changes you forever. Except, I guess, it’s maybe not like that for everyone.

All in all, I found it to be a well written book, with unique content and an interesting, if not dark, perspective. I’ll give it 4 out of 5 stars.


Ann said...

Interesting - not sure I will jump though. I have too limited emotions to deal with the 'dark' side of parenthood. I know it exists for some but I am so far gone on the other side of parental bliss that I know I wouldn't understand - won't be critical but don't need the burden (if that makes sense).

Are you 8 months pregnant? Might have missed something.

Amy said...

No, Im not pregnant. I thought it sounded more dramatic ;-)

I understand your position on not reading it. Halfway through I almost put it down for good thinking it was just too dark but saw it through. It also made me feel like I was a super, earth mother loving, parent of year in comparison.

Ann said...

Amy ... ready for another entry. Don't even really 'know' you but you are in my blog role (of sorts) and I get bored at seeing the same title.

Hope you are well.