Published by St. Martin's Press
Publication date: June 5, 2018
Genres: Contemporary, Fiction, Humor
You know how sometimes you see a trailer for a movie and it is fantastic, then you go see the movie and realize all the best bits were in the trailer? The cover for How Hard Can It Be? is like that. Every woman I know who’s seen it has laughed out loud, but does that mean that what lies behind the cover is any good? It’s the modern-day story of Kate Reddy, who after an absence of seven years is re-entering the work force. Maybe not a big deal, but she’s also 49—an age that sends shivers down the back of any woman, whether she’s currently employed or not. It’s the new tipping point between desirable and productive and dried out and ready to be euthanized. Or so employers say. With a premise like this and a cover like that, How Hard Can It Be? could either be relatable, fantastic reading or something as overwrought as Diane Keaton screeching her way through First Wives Club. The good news is: it’s the former.
Kate let go of her career as a fund manager in London to stay home with her children until her husband lost his job as an architect and decided it was a good time to refocus on ‘what’s important’ and embark on the training necessary to become a counsellor. Training that would take two years, involve going through intensive, expensive, therapy, and would result in an income a fraction of what he was previously earning. Bottom line: Kate needs to go back to work. She does, even managing to get a job at her old firm, which, after the crash of 2008, has been emptied of everyone she knew and refilled with 20 and 30-somethings. She only gets the job by chopping seven years off her age. And so begins a life of lies, and for the reader, high humor.
How Hard Can It Be? meets every readers’ prayer of a book they don’t want to end through Kate’s acerbic wit in dealing with the various challenges of being a middle-aged woman and everything that comes with that stage of life. Her battle to get the kids to talk and share with her:
…trying to wean them off their screen addiction seems futile. Like switching off the wind or the rain. If there’s a heaven, and my kids ever get there, their first question is going to St. Peter will be, “What’s the password?”
Hitting perimenopause and watching her libido disappear:
What sex drive? Signals from down below are now so intermittent it’s like one of those black-box flight recorders lost on the bottom of the Pacific Ocean.
Or preparing for a college reunion:
You can rummage in your jewelry box and find a ‘statement necklace’ to wear. (And the statement is: “I don’t like this neck and would like the old neck back, please.’)
Beyond the laugh out loud observations, Kate’s feelings also resonate with the moments that are often not considered, unless they’ve happened to you. For me, this was a particularly apt passage:
So for more than twenty years I worked and I was paid well and I stood on my own two feet. Never thinking what it would feel like to have your legs pulled out from under you. People talk about giving up work as if it’s a holiday or a change of scene, but in my experience it’s more like a death—a small death, but a profound loss nonetheless. When you don’t have a pay cheque, a month feels very different—contourless, void.
The book is crammed with these instances on everything from parenting to asking for a raise and all are done with incisive competency, like a surgeon with a sense of humor. Because who doesn’t want that?
There is a lot of plot in How Hard Can It Be? from endless teenage daughter drama to marital woes, but Pearson had me so firmly entrenched in her words it never became a problem. This is breezy, entertaining reading, not literary fiction. And in case you’re worried I’ve used all the best lines in this review? Not even close.