Fresh Hell: Motherhood in Pieces

Carellin Brooks. Demeter Press (Brunswick Books, North American dist.), $14.95 trade paper (85p) ISBN 978-1-927335-32-1
A meditative but funny, arch, and unflinching memoir that captures a diaper-filled year in the life of a second-time mother. Across 52 spare chapters, the harried single mom in question—charming yet self-deprecating: vain but dressed in hand-me-downs, possessing a doctorate from Oxford but always cash-poor, by turns loving and furious, and never not shocked at the "indignity, the unsupportable horror of it all"—reflects on a colorful assortment of pertinent topics, all the while regretting the chasm between tidy book smarts and messy practical experience. Every Inch a Woman author Brooks turns her gaze to: her sad or bitten breasts, self-chosen hostage status, endless stream of advice from innumerable experts, and other, picture-perfect mothers. Of course, there's baby too, a "producer of appalling effluvia" and possessed of a seemingly "beastly," Jekyll and Hyde, monstrous nature. This helpless and ravenous enigma develops "unpleasant new skill[s]" overnight (such as touching a hot stove) and embodies piercing screams and imperturbable good cheer at once and without effort. Between sleepless nights and weaning anxieties, the narrator whispers a reminder to herself that serves a secondary duty as a mantra: "This is what you've always wanted." (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 11/18/2013
Release date: 09/01/2013
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