Rachel Cusk‘s fourth book is a memoir, A Life’s Work: On Becoming a Mother. My favorite line, because of the unwritten premise, comes in the Introduction, where she writes, “…so it would be a contradiction to write a book about motherhood without explaining to some degree how I found the time to write it.”
The answer is that her partner quit his job to take care of the children “while Rachel writes her book about looking after the children.”
In the author’s words, this book “describes a period in which time seemed to go round in circles rather than in any chronological order.” Very quickly, the baby develops colic. Surely, Cusk writes, there is a better word for this, some sort of German word meaning lifegrief.
At the end of three months: “I see that she has become somebody. I realize, too, that the crying has stopped, that she has survived the first pain of existence and out of it wrought herself. And she has wrought me, too, because although I have not helped or understood, I have been there all along and this, I suddenly and certainly know, is motherhood; this mere sufficiency, this presence.”
My only quarrel with the memoir is that perhaps a better title would have been simply On Becoming a Mother, as these pages are limited to the initial weeks and months after the baby is born, to this transition time of becoming a mother, which the author so clearly does.
A book to read before you get pregnant, as well as afterwards (if you can stay awake long enough to read.) And don’t forget Anne Lamott‘s, Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son’s First Year. Two books that speak the truth.
If anyone is waiting for the house-building analogy, she’s painting and carpeting….Next up, The Lucky Ones.