Since Emily Bazelon first suggested reading Fleishman is in Trouble on the Slate Political Gabfest (one of my favourite podcasts ever), I have been excited to read it. I both like Emily and the general premise: divorce unfolds and man learns about emotional labour. Explaining emotional labour is emotional labour, so I’ll just let you read about it if you’re not super familiar.
And the book delivers! It is incredibly funny. Like ha ha. Mostly because Toby our maybe-protagonist (more on that in a minute) is self-depreciating (except not ‘self’) and ridiculous and pathetic in ways that are at once endearing and frustrating. He and his (now ex-) wife Rachel are wealthy New Yorkers trying to raise children while juggling demanding jobs. In a genered role reversal that Toby takes a sign of his enlightened feminist position, Toby does a lot of the childcare and makes less money than Rachel.
But midway into the novel things take a narrative turn (in the sense of narrative point of view) in the introduction of the point of view of Libby, one of Toby’s old friends, and eventually of Rachel. And in the expanding perspective of events – and the recognition that Toby is being offered to us through the filter of Libby – the reader is confronted with the particular (and maddening) ways Toby has misunderstood all that surrounds him.
I want to tell you a lot more about the book, but I don’t want to offer spoilers as I really do hope you’ll read it. I will say that a ready complaint is the economic and racial skew of the feminism presented in the book. It’s not a feminist perspective that sees much scope for intersectional identity; rather a bunch of rich white women grapple with how to have it all. That said, as a rich white woman struggling to have it all, the book resonated, and I recommend.
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