"What Do You Do all Day?" by Amy ScheibeJennifer Bradley, at first, did not appeal to me. In fact, after reading the first couple of pages, I’d decided, prematurely, mind you, that she was not to my taste; she, on first meeting, appeared to be one of those ladies who lunch, one of those irritating, tight-lipped, speaks through their teeth New York types who have nothing better to do than fuss with their million dollah (sic) brownstone and sigh about how hard it is to find good help. Let me clarify that statement by saying Scheibe doesn’t play her character like that, oh, not at all. ‘Tis my own envy/prejudice/sick-of-wearing-outlet-quality apparel that formed my initial opinion. I hate broads that can afford nannies.
And she’s mean. Thinks bad, mean thoughts about other folks’ homely, lisping children.
What an unlikable bitch, I thought. But I kept reading despite my animosity. I couldn’t help it. The narrative is much too compelling, and by the second chapter, I realized that Ms. Jennifer is not what she first appeared to be. Yes, the woman is well-to-do. Yes, she is mean, but it’s a fitting, funny, sarcastic, honest kind of mean, not a back-biting, snooty, Wal-Mart patron-hater kind of mean. She thinks (and for the most part, behaves) the way most intelligent, funny, feeling-trapped, confused young mothers would. When I came upon this simple six-word declaration on page eight: "And so, my life is hell.” I realized the error of my thoughts. Hence my immediate change of heart regarding Jennifer Bradley.
This is not a book about ranting stay-at-home mommies, per se, but a story with many layers and twists that happen to involve ranting stay-at-home mommies (and gay daddies). It is a story filled with much warmth, truth and a touch of sadness, and it is, quite simply, insanely humorous. I laughed out loud many times during my read, found myself grinning like an idiot at Jennifer’s witty repartee, her honesty and wicked internal dialogue. Also, I very much enjoyed many of the other characters in Jennifer’s life, especially their imperfections, how Scheibe doesn’t shy away from portraying Jennifer’s friends and family as flawed, sometimes annoying human beings. They are flawed, occasionally annoying, occasionally clueless, as is Jennifer, but that’s what makes them seem all that more believable. Human beings are damn annoying, unfortunately. I did, however, come to dislike two of the characters -- in fact, I felt angry by the selfish (in my opinion) and seemingly nonsensical actions on their part that are revealed toward the end of the story. Jennifer doesn’t get mad enough (again, my opinion). I want her to scream at these people, show them, as well as the reader, that she finds the whole scenario ludicrous, infuriating. I want her to be as pissed I feel. Alas, she uncharacteristically tales it all in, appears to accept what has been tossed in her lap with a shrug. She deals with it, and she does so without drama or self pity; her acceptance of this revelation, although unsatisfying on first impression, may be the catalyst for how she deals with what lies ahead.
Now that I think about it, perhaps that is the whole point of this story…To accept things we cannot change, to appreciate what we have. To do away with contempt and envy and self-doubt. To embrace loved ones, flaws and all. To not sabotage our own happiness by stewing in wrongs done to us. To not judge.
Yes, on third thought, I do believe that may be the whole point.