I Don’t Know How She Does It

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Kate Reddy, a British woman in her thirties, has the perfect life: a well-paying, enjoyable job as a hedge-fund manager; a handsome and kind husband, Richard; and two lovely children, Emily and Ben. She has, however, no time to enjoy what she has accomplished. Instead she leads a hectic, nonstop life, busily trying to meet everyone’s needs and live up to the standards of motherhood that she believes are reached by the stay-at-home moms. She imagines herself appearing before a judge, charged with being a working mother who gives her children expensive gifts to make up for missing their bedtimes and not spending enough time with them. Through a mistakenly sent e-mail, she accidentally starts a flirtation with an American business associate. She gets so wrapped up in trying to fit everything into her schedule that her husband leaves her. In the end, Kate recovers what is dear to her, and she and her husband move to the country, where she becomes a full-time mother and wife. However, the novel ends with a hint that Kate may start working again, perhaps in a way that provides a more balanced life.

Allison Pearson adeptly mixes humor and sadness to produce an involving and entertaining first novel. Her use of a diary-like format, with “must remember” lists and e-mail exchanges, has the affect of bringing the reader directly into Kate’s roller-coaster life, providing a revealing look into the life of a very engaging character.