Allison Pearson left her stamp on the world of funny British lit in 2002 with her bestseller-turned-movie “I Don’t Know How She Does It.” Now her working mom heroine Kate Reddy is back for another round in “How Hard Can It Be?”
So how’s Kate doing?
When we last saw her she was saying ta-ta to the financial world — and an American guy who was more than a mild flirtation — to recommit herself to her marriage and children. Now, she has been out of the workforce for seven years and is about to turn the big 5-0. She is also sprouting a small garden from her chin thanks to menopause, and her daughter has just had her “belfie” go viral. (As the teen explains to her bewildered mom, that is a “selfie of your bum”). She is taking care of her aging mother and in-laws, her unemployed husband is in the throes of a midlife crisis and her family is running out of cash.
Something has to change.
That something is Kate. She knows she has to get a job quickly and decides it would be a lot easier if she were 42 instead of almost 50 because “fifty has a Do Not Resuscitate notice taped to its forehead.” With her white lie ready and an impressive spin job on her CV — “Pioneering research in Human Resources with special emphasis on staff development and motivation. (Spent days tracking down and hiring highly rated private tutor.)” — she lands a business development position that is well below her at the very same investment fund where she started. It has a new name and staff, so her secret is safe, but the financial world is small, and soon her gorgeous American Jack Abelhammer hears she is back in the business. In a snap, he is back in her life, too.
Much of the book is devoted to Kate trying to do the universal juggle. Will she be able to support her family, save her marriage, rock her job, appear to be aging in reverse — and be happy, too?
When Kate is working on her resume, she asks, “What are the words you’d use to describe the fact that women take care of the young and the old, year in, year out, and none of that work counts as skills or experience, or even work? Because women are doing it for free it is literally worthless.” It is a problem many readers will identify with.
Despite a predictable plot, it is this relatable quality of Pearson’s story, along with laugh-out-loud zingers on nearly every page, that makes this sequel shine. “How Hard Can It Be?” is witty, current and a good reminder that age can be a trump card, even if you need reading glasses to see the deck.
Karin Tanabe, a former Politico reporter, is the author of four novels, including her latest, “The Diplomat’s Daughter.”
By Allison Pearson
St. Martin’s Press. 384 pp. $27.99