Published by W. W. Norton & Company
Publication date: May 5th 2014
I don’t generally begin a review by telling people to stop reading but if you are a man hand the laptop/iPad to your better half and go watch ESPN because I’m about to talk about a book about m-e-n-o-p-a-u-s-e. And, really, not even we women want to talk about it so I’m saving you a world of hurt. Now go away.
Yes, it’s a natural part of life but while pregnancy is something discussed ad nauseaum and results in a new life, menopause is not something most women want to talk about, much less go through. Even if you were one of those (like me) who thought it would be a relief to finally be rid of all that monthly yuck and so looked forward to menopause only to be cruelly disappointed because it’s your period minus the mess but it lasts for YEARS. Really, we’d all rather be sipping daiquiris on the beach but since that’s not possible one of the most hilarious ways to enter or get through the hormonal hell is to read Sandra Tsing Loh’s new memoir The Madwoman in the Volvo: My Year of Raging Hormones. In it she recounts the year she started experiencing the trifecta of menopausal symptoms: hot flashes, the disappearance of her metabolism, and mood swings that pinball from rage to manic ups to an ennui that leaves you inert.
According to statistics by 2015 almost 50% of American women will be menopausal. Unfortunately, this doesn’t feel so much like a “hear me roar” moment as it does a “someone please turn up the a/c” one. We’re not roaring we’re shvitzing. For Loh she begins to notice “the change” as a literal change when she has an affair, gets a divorce, and then watched her lover go back to his wife, only to end up marrying him later.
She bemoans the fact that modern day menopause is significantly less satisfying because compared to her mother throwing a glass baking dish against the wall in front of her, she can’t go into full on rage in front of her daughters for fear of “damaging their feelings of security.”
The Madwoman in the Volvo follows Loh’s experiences as she tries to rediscover the woman she used to be. With one friend she embarks on the happiness project until it devolves into shopping for new nail polish at Target and feels like too much trouble. She decides that it is the mothering and wife-ing that is weighing her down and so visits a wealthy, unmarried friend for a day and experiences being the recipient of care as opposed to the giver. Loh mixes these personal experiences with the medical facts of what is happening within a woman’s body in menopause. Namely, that estrogen gives women the nurturing energy necessary to give birth to and raise children and when it goes away, we revert back to the behavior of everyone else—or as Loh puts it
And now that Aunt Carol’s hormonal cloud is finally wearing off, it’s not a tragedy, or an abnormality, or her going crazy—it just means she can rejoin the rest of the human race: She can be the same selfish, nonnurturing, nonbonding type of person everyone else is.
When she’s told exercise and diet are critical components to feeling better she embarks on a rigorous regimen with a personal trainer but finds that
My days are already interminably long. To get up before dawn to do something miserable like spinning and then to have even more day left over afterward? Which they wanted to fill with—something?
does not work for her. To make matters worse, her husband does none of these things but loses weight anyway.
Loh’s wry, snarky humor infuses The Madwoman in the Volvo, making what is a not-so-humorous time in a woman’s life, wildly amusing. This is NOT a medical guide but there is useful, factual information throughout. The fact that it comes coated with laughs makes it that much better to read.
This book can be purchased online at: