cover image A LIFE'S WORK: On Becoming a Mother

A LIFE'S WORK: On Becoming a Mother

Rachel Cusk, . . Picador USA, $22 (224pp) ISBN 978-0-312-26987-6

Taking an unsentimental approach to one of the most dramatic changes in a woman's life, British novelist Cusk (The Country Life) dissects the process of new motherhood from a psychological and emotional perspective. Now the mother of two, Cusk found the early weeks and months with a dependent newborn far from idyllic and rewarding, and her description of that time fills in the gaps left by most pregnancy and child-rearing books. Her dry, honest style is a refreshing change for anyone seeking to understand the daily realities of undertaking such an enormous responsibility. Despite a tone that is at times bleak and foreboding, Cusk perfectly captures the inherent conflict between the pleasures known before baby and those that the baby brings, noting, for example, "it is when the baby sleeps that I liaise, as if it were a lover, with my former life," but "sometimes I miss the baby and lie beside her cot while she sleeps." Cusk details her struggles with the major tasks all new mothers face, like feeding and sleep, and she addresses the challenge not only to do what is best for the baby, but also to maintain a sense of self and autonomy in the face of such constant, overwhelming need. Although not a cheerful baby shower gift book, Cusk's brutal honesty will certainly be appreciated by many new moms, assuring them they are not alone. (Apr.)