amanda bright@home by Danielle Crittenden (Warner Books, $34.95, 322 pages)

Reviewed by Christina Tuns
The Interim

As I began reading Danielle Crittenden’s latest book amanda bright@home, I was concerned when the acknowledgments said that the title character had originally come to life in the National Post and Wall Street Journal online. I was concerned that not having read any of Crittenden’s serializations would leave me unsatisfied with the book. Would I be able to piece together information about her past and about what brought the character to the place she is now, or would not knowing the background be too much of an obstacle to understanding Bright and the book? Such concerns were unfounded.

Crittenden’s writing style invites the reader to immediately enter Amanda’s world. Her poignant descriptions and dialogue bring the main character to life. Throughout the book, I found myself sympathizing, rejoicing and frustrated with Amanda as she took us through her journey of becoming a stay-at-home mom.

Amanda is a 30-something, highly educated woman who makes the choice to take a break from work and stay at home to raise her family. As a feminist, Amanda is constantly trying to balance the expectations placed upon her by the “women’s movement” and the ramifications of her choice to stay at home. When describing Amanda’s quandary, Crittenden writes: “Her grandmother’s World War II generation had embraced motherhood and rejected careers; her mother’s post-war generation rejected motherhood and embraced careers. And Amanda’s? Well, that she didn’t know.”

A common mantra of feminists is that women can do anything a man can do; that they have the right to go out and work side-by-side with men, to get paid as much as they do, to make choices about their lives and their bodies, to break into male-dominated jobs and roles and to be successful (career) women. This mantra may encourage women to push forward in the workplace, but as Amanda quickly discovers, it also pushes women away from the choice of staying at home and being a full-time wife and mother.

People constantly dismiss Amanda, looking down at her for choosing to stay at home to raise her family and leaving her feeling she no longer needs to fight the stereotypical male-dominated roles, but the feminist-imposed ones.

Although Amanda’s battle with her role as a feminist and a mother is present throughout the book, it is not the only struggle with which Amanda is faced. Her house is a mess, her son’s teacher thinks he needs counselling, her husband is experiencing success in his job and she is contemplating if flirting with another man will make her feel more womanly.

One of the many wonderful things about Amanda is that she is real. Women who have or are contemplating staying at home will be able to relate to Amanda and the reality with which she is faced. One would hope that feminists reading this book see a friend or relative in Amanda and realize how much they do to belittle stay-at-home moms and how demeaning and hypocritical it is to view staying at home as a failure or short-coming, instead of a perfectly valid and life-affirming (if difficult) choice.

amanda bright@home is an ideal book for all women to read. The story flows so naturally, you could pick it up for a quick read while waiting for a board meeting to start or while grabbing a little “me” time when the kids are resting. It leaves the reader wanting more. Maybe a quick search in the Post’s or Journal’s archives to see where Amanda came from would leave one feeling satisfied until, one hopes, a sequel is released.