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Last Updated on November 22, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 633

Stephanie Land

As the author, protagonist, and narrator, Stephanie Land is at the center of the story. Maid details her struggles with abuse, poverty, and motherhood, telling a tale of survival in a failing system. After a decade of flitting from career path to career path, Land accidentally becomes pregnant at twenty-eight. She chooses to keep the child, which leads her then-boyfriend, Jaime, to spiral into emotional and physical abuse. A collection of hardships—including Land’s lack of support from her awful boyfriend and distant family—force her into poverty, so she takes the only job she can get. Working as a maid, Land cleans the homes of her wealthy neighbors for a meager living. 

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The book is as much a memoir as it is an analysis of her time in these homes, describing the internal rhythms of her clients’ intimate lives. Land interweaves these tales from her time as a maid with her turbulent personal life in a voice that is both compelling and tragic, detailing the failures of American social welfare and discussing the scorn those on the margins too often face. Maid details the life of a resilient and determined young woman from the perspective of her older self, whose recollection of the time is tinged with scathing commentary on social welfare, the condemnation of single motherhood, and the invisibility of the working class. Her writing is sparse but thorough, and she depicts her past circumstances with a poignant and familiar immediacy.


Mia is the author’s daughter, and, for much of the novel, she is little more than an infant. She grows up in less-than-ideal circumstances, as her mother strives to escape an emotionally and, eventually, physically abusive relationship and become independent. For the first seven months of her life, Mia lives in her father’s home, a turbulent place of anger and violence. After her parents’ relationship unravels, Mia lives with her mother in a women’s shelter. Eventually, they find an apartment, but it is littered with black mold. Mia is often sick, dealing with sinus infections and respiratory issues because of the mold, but she does not lose her spirit. She is a constant source of inspiration for her mother, and her antics—singing and dancing around their apartment—constitute one of the few positive presences and moments of joy in Land’s life. 


Land’s former boyfriend, Jaime, reacts poorly to the news of her pregnancy. He begins to lash out verbally and even threatens physical abuse. After their daughter, Mia, is born, Jaime’s abuse worsens. Although he allows Land to stay with him for several months, she leaves after he punches a hole in their wall. Their relationship is strained, but Land chooses to stay in Port Townsend, Washington in hopes that she can foster a relationship between Mia and her father. Jaime is an impatient man who attempts to force Land into aborting their child; when he does not get his way, he takes his rage out on Land. He reluctantly provides modest child support and sees Mia occasionally, but only if Land facilitates it. 


After Jaime, Land meets Travis, a struggling farmer with whom she is romantically involved. Land moves into his home shortly after they begin dating, but their fast-paced relationship soon spirals into abuse. Land views her time with Travis as a cautionary tale of the ramifications of romance for those in dire financial straights. Even though he proves to be abusive, Land cannot afford to move out, so she becomes once again dependent on a man who treats her poorly. Initially appealing because of his hard-working demeanor, Travis proves to be a very similar man to Jaime; he can be cruel and unsympathetic, and he often relies on verbal abuse to get his way. 

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