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Accidentally on Purpose: A One-Night Stand, My Unplanned Parenthood, and Loving the Best Mistake I Ever Made Hardcover – June 3, 2008

4.3 out of 5 stars 52 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

First-time author Pols fashions an earnest, endearing memoir about how she hit her late 30s without a mate, but still managed to beat her biological clock. Finding herself pregnant at 39 after picking up a cute 29-year-old named Matt at a Bay Area bar, the author, the youngest of a large Catholic family from Maine, resolved to make a go at single motherhood. A successful film critic, if not exactly rich, she nonetheless figured out (with the help of her devoted circle of friends and family) a plan to live and raise the baby, including residing for a spell in a friend's trailer while pregnant. She barely knows her baby daddy, whom she portrays as sweet, if mostly directionless and unemployed. Her book good-naturedly traces some of the early hurdles of her experience, such as telling the Grinch (her father), finding out the sex of the baby and trying to sneak into a film screening with her infant. Candid and unaffected, Pols provides an important lesson about not being willing to compromise herself, and that being brave can bring the richest rewards. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


“[Pols writes] with humor and grace. . . . It’s rare to find such honesty, even in an account so personal. Grade: A-” (Entertainment Weekly)

“Sharp, witty and slightly self-deprecating, she alternates clever, camera-ready one-liners with intense self-revelations about parents, children, love and family….” (San Francisco Chronicle)

“Ms. Pols is a charming and insightful storyteller, and her memoir is both engrossing and endearing ...” (New York Observer)

“Her writing is mesmerizing and lyrical. I laughed and cried and shook my head at some of her choices, but I rooted for her and her son the whole way.” (Minneapolis Star Tribune)

“Much as Pols’s story resembles the Judd Apatow movie, it is distinct in its heartfelt description of a woman who has come up against the edge of youth and expectation.” (Cookie Magazine)

“It’s funny, intimate, wise, and real, and we get to root for forty­something Mary, her twentysomething coparent, Matt, and their little son, Dolan, now four.” (Elle)

“Amid joy and heartbreak, Pols grows from a self-absorbed and judgmental whiner into a self-aware adult and loving mother. It’s her transformation that makes this memoir an unforgettable read.” (Diablo Magazine)

“Bay Area film critic Pols chronicles her unexpected pregnancy and journey into not-quite-single motherhood….A page-turner by someone who stopped waiting for Mr. Perfect.” (Kirkus Reviews)

“Candid and unaffected, Pols provides an important lesson about not being willing to compromise herself, and that being brave can bring the richest rewards.” (Publishers Weekly)

“… a well-written, emotionally honest memoir of Pols’ journey to motherhood and increased maturity…. She details with wit and humor her efforts to juggle her many challenges…” (BookPage)

“...far transcends its particulars...thoughtful, funny and sexy...a delightful meditation on partnership, desire, fulfillment...” (Peggy Orenstein, bestselling author of Schoolgirls and Waiting for Daisy)

“Astutely witty...will grip you to the very last page. This is a feminist tale for our age.” (Heidi Julavits, author of The Uses of Enchantment)

“... [A] touching, funny, and brutally honest story...[Pols] is opinionated, vulnerable, droll, tenacious, acerbic, loyal...real.” (Kate Moses, author of Because I Said So: 33 Mothers Write About Children, Sex, Men, Aging, Faith, Race & Themselves)

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Ecco; 1 edition (June 3, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061256927
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061256929
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (52 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,906,984 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Mary Pols is the author of "Accidentally on Purpose" (June 2008, Ecco/Harper Collins. In hardback, it had one of those long subtitles that give away a lot and we've streamlined it for the paperback release to "The True Tale of a Happy Single Mother." A native of Maine, Pols has spent most of her professional life as a journalist in California. From 2000 to 2008 she was the film critic for the Contra Costa Times in the Bay Area, and before that, a staff writer for the Los Angeles Times, Seattle Times and the Los Angeles Daily News. Pols lives in Northern California and is working on her next book, a novel. She's also a freelance journalist and critic. Her movie reviews can be found at Time.com and MSN Movies.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Though I really enjoyed this book for a variety of reasons, it concerns me that Pols was so ruthless and revealing about her relationship with her son's father. Although she certainly does not paint herself as the perfect mate or parent, she is not gracious about her son's father's (perceived) failings. I just thought it brutal, and more than a little indecorous to go into such detail about their sexual behavior and how he doesn't measure up in so many ways. How unkind a picture to bequeath her son! I think the rationale that it is for "art's sake" is thin, and symptomatic of our boundry-less popular culture. Sure, Pols is honest about her own warts, but that doesn't mitigate the cruel overexposure she has subjected her son and his father to.

That said, it is often funny and definitely a page-turner.
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Format: Paperback
Mary Pols shares her unconventional life as a single mom, daughter, and journalist in this memoir. The book honestly addresses her relationship with her parents, her baby's daddy, and her movie critic career.

I often found myself being as critical of Mary Pols as she was of her baby's father, Matt. Ms. Pols consistently portrayed Matt as a young man who failed to grow emotionally and accept responsibility. Yet it was Ms. Pols who consciously or unconsciously made the decision to become a single mother ... accidently on purpose.

The story did get a little slow for me when Ms. Pols wrote of her relationship with her parents and their deaths. My interest was in the happy single mother not the unhappy daughter.

There were times I felt Ms. Pols was hesitant to share the details of her relationship with her son as well as the trials and rewards of motherhood. Unlike some of the reviews I have read, I do not believe Ms. Pols is completely forthcoming.

Overall, the book is very well written and mostly engaging. Now I'd like to hear from the single dad, Matt. Has he found the relationship and the situation rewarding? What is your take, Matt? It is your turn.
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Format: Paperback
I decided to read ACCIDENTALLY ON PURPOSE: THE TRUE TALE OF A HAPPY SINGLE MOTHER by Mary F. Pols because I thought the book looked "cute." I mean the cover is just precious, right? Plus, the author's story had an uncanny likeness to someone I know, and I was a bit curious to get some insight into the situation. After reading ACCIDENTALLY ON PURPOSE, I definitely can say that it was a very interesting story and a very good book. And while I didn't always understand Ms. Pols' actions and I did have some difficulties relating to her, none of that affected my enjoyment of this book.

ACCIDENTALLY ON PURPOSE is Mary Pols' story of becoming a single mother and how she worked out all of the kinks that she encountered along the way. Ms. Pols hooked up one night with a younger man that she had just met at a bar. She had a good time but realized that they were at very different places in their lives -- he was in his late 20s and didn't even have a steady job. They didn't really stay in touch much after the hook-up, until a few weeks later when she discovered that she was pregnant. As a 39 year old woman who knew she wanted a child, she figured this might be her last chance to have one so she decides to keep the baby.

ACCIDENTALLY ON PURPOSE is Ms. Pols' first book; however, she is not a stranger to the written word. She has been a film reviewer for many years before deciding to undertake a book writing career. I found ACCIDENTALLY ON PURPOSE to be very readable, and I became caught up in Ms. Pols' life (and her predicament) right from the start. I was very impressed with storytelling abilities and her writing style, but I think I was more impressed with her honesty. There are parts of this story that aren't exactly flattering towards Ms.
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Format: Hardcover
SPOILERS: Mary F. Pols's memoir starts out with a one-night stand, but winds up being as much a meditation on her family of origin as the one she creates with a most unlikely mate. At 39, she has wanted a child, but hasn't done much to move that process along. When she finds herself unexpectedly pregnant, she doesn't question keeping the baby, but does question who she wound up procreating with: Matt, an unemployed guy ten years her junior with roommates, a messy apartment, and little ambition. Though she's hot for him and continues to be throughout her pregnancy, reconciling his role in her life is something that doesn't stop even after she gives birth to her son Dolan (a family name).

Pols's pregnancy and birth story are the backbone of this book, but equally as important is her large family, which is in flux as each of her parents go on the decline as her pregnancy progresses. Pols weaves in memories of her parents as well as her sense that she is not living up to what they'd expected of her. But what Pols learns again and again is not to underestimate those around her, whether it's her father's acceptance of her unwed and single state (and of Matt as the father of his grandson) as well as Matt's ability to rise up to his role as father.

When Pols finds out Matt had been cheating on her toward the end of her pregnancy, it's one of the rawest parts of the book, one where both people seem "right" as well as "wrong." Pols is understandably angry ("'Was this mercy f---ing?" I asked. "Taking care of the pregnant woman's needs? You felt nothing at all?'") but it's clear that Matt has been upfront with her from the start. Their tumultuous push-pull relationship is a struggle especially once they become parents.

Does this book have a happy ending? Yes, and no.
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