Reading Danielle Crittenden's new novel amanda bright@home [read review] brings to mind a riposte Bill Buckley once published to a particularly nasty correspondent. A reader had sent him a long screed about how terrible she thought he looked on TV (there's no accounting for taste), and he had responded, "Dear Ms. ----, If, on top of everything else, I were good looking, wouldn't it be just too much?"
Danielle Crittenden has already written a wise and funny nonfiction critique of feminism called What Our Mothers Didn't Tell Us [read review]. But fiction writing is a wholly different art -- plot, character development, imagery -- can she do all that?
Oh yeah, she can. Amanda Bright is a typical young woman of the feminist era. She is liberal, pro-abortion and career-oriented -- and utterly unprepared for the challenge of motherhood. Following the birth of her first child, Ben, she returns to work at the National Endowment for the Arts, and deposits him in daycare.
"She and Bob would drop off Ben every morning at 7:30, at a day care center in a local church basement. She chose this center because of the women who worked there, silvery-haired church matrons whose voices never lost their soothing lilt as they pried Ben's fingernails from her calves. ... Amanda could hear Ben's cries from the parking lot. ... When the scenes didn't improve, Amanda, at the church ladies' insistence, ceased to accompany Ben inside. Bob took him in while she waited in the car with the windows rolled up and the radio switched on."
It is more than Amanda can take. And so despite the disgust of her trailblazing feminist mother, she decides to stay at home after her next child is born.
Still, unlike a college friend who has embraced family life and produced a happy brood of four children, Amanda is torn and confused. She adores her children, but he cannot bear to think of herself as just a mother. She insists upon her maiden name as if it were a title, and does a lousy job of housekeeping and cooking as if to proclaim, "This is not my identity."