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A Double Life: Discovering Motherhood (River Teeth Literary Nonfiction Prize) Paperback


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Product Details

  • Series: River Teeth Literary Nonfiction Prize
  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Bison Books (March 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0803235089
  • ISBN-13: 978-0803235083
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.6 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,758,013 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Harper's elegant, thoughtful writing makes this a must-read for expectant parents: there is both affirmation and information, such as a scientific explanation of how the fetus and placenta regulate pregnancy. The author skillfully moves between the personal and the technical as she muses on the ways becoming a parent transforms a woman's body, mind, and spirit; she chronicles what happens during pregnancy, and uses her research to explain how and why. "Motherhood meant change," she writes, and "expecting meant not expecting." With those uncertainties in mind, she recounts her own transformations: from a woman using birth control to one who wants nothing more than to conceive; from energetic swing dancer to a "lame duck" temporarily hobbled by sciatica; finally, to mother of Ella. Harper also examines the ways in which her movement toward motherhood affected her relationships with husband Kory and her own mother. The author's decision to cast her own experiences against the larger backdrops of biology, family, and transformation makes her book universal, moving, and relevant. (Mar.)
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Review

"Harper's elegant, thoughtful writing makes this a must-read for expectant parents. . . . The author's decision to cast her own experiences against the larger backdrops of biology, family, and transformation makes her book universal, moving, and relevant."—Publishers Weekly
(Publishers Weekly)

"A sweet, immediate articulation of the experience of pregnancy, birth and early motherhood."—Kirkus
(Kirkus 2011-01-01)

"The terrain of Harper's memoir—pregnancy, birth, the first months of motherhood—is familiar, but the honest and funny voice in which she tells it, and the nuanced observations with which it is filled, are unique."—Lindsey Mead, A Design So Vast
(Lindsey Mead A Design So Vast 2011-02-22)

" I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to remember that first nine of months of motherhood . . . . I also think that this would make a fabulous gift for a mother-to-be, whether it's her first pregnancy or her fourth, or even to a grandmother-to-be, so that she can remember her own pregnancy as she's living her daughter's."—Jennifer Donovan, 5MinutesforMom.com
(Jennifer Donovan 5MinutesforMom.com 2011-03-07)

"The way that Harper entwines science, history, narrative, and reflection makes reading this book like watching a carefully choreographed dance. . . . In each chapter, Harper explores one aspect of her emotional and physical reactions to pregnancy and childbirth, connecting her experiences with something larger. And whether she is meditating on movement, pain, love, faith, or mortality, she does so thoroughly, diving in and searching out what she really thinks and believes about the "double life" -- before and after motherhood -- that she's living."—Kate Hopper, Literary Mama
(Kate Hopper Literary Mama 2011-07-31)

"Anyone with a family—and those contemplating starting one—will enjoy this wry, revealing memoir of motherhood."—Georgia Rowe, San Jose Mercury News
(Georgia Rowe San Jose Mercury News 2011-04-28)

More About the Author

LISA CATHERINE HARPER is the author of the award-winning memoir, A DOUBLE LIFE, DISCOVERING MOTHERHOOD and the co-editor of the forthcoming THE CASSOULET SAVED OUR MARRIAGE: TRUE TALES OF FOOD, FAMILY, AND LEARNING TO EAT. She has been on the faculty of the MFA program at the University of San Francisco since 2001. She holds a PhD in American literature.

Lisa was born in New Jersey, and lived in New York City, London, Belfast, Amsterdam, Paris, the French Alps, and Austin, TX before settling in Northern California, where she now lives with her husband, the artist, Kory Heinzen, and their two children. For more please visit: http://lisacatherineharper.com

Customer Reviews

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See all 8 customer reviews
I found it to be extremely well-written and great fun to read.
lip
It turned out to be one of the most beautifully composed books I've read in a while--thoughtful, descriptive, educational, deceptively funny, and highly readable.
Nick
I think this is a great book for moms and I even bought a copy for my mom.
ellekc

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 13 people found the following review helpful By K. C. Yates on March 31, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I really *wanted* to like this book. Pregnant with my first and almost exactly the same age as the author when she was pregnant, I thought it would be an interesting and informative (and possibly even inspiring) story about becoming a first-time mom, and imagined that I'd be able to relate to the author's experience of pregnancy and motherhood.

Despite my desire to like this book, the author began to lose me as early as page 15. She writes for several pages about how hard it was to want to be pregnant and not achieve it, before eventually revealing that she "tried" for just three months. As someone who tried for much, much longer, I felt it was rather ridiculous and uninformed to expect to be instantly pregnant at age 35, if not insensitive to include in the book her overly dramatic three-month period of "anxious waiting." Still, I kept reading and hoped to reconnect to the author.

That hope was dashed when, starting on page 56, the author writes about planning a dinner party to tell their closest friends of her pregnancy. The menu, for at least 30 guests in her "small apartment" in San Francisco, included homemade tuna and salmon mousses, homemade fresh pate de campagne (which as the author writes is "at least a week-long process"), coq au vin, chocolate roulade with candied oranges, and champagne and bourbon milk punch (among other things). And this at the end of her first trimester, when many of us are so exhausted we struggle to keep up with normal household tasks. Suffice it to say that any possibility that I'd be able to relate in any way to the author vanished as quickly as, I'm sure, her coq au vin did that night.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Joyce Kleiner on April 6, 2011
Format: Paperback
Every first-time expectant mother probably starts a journal. But by the time we're through our first box of saltines we have abandoned the project. We can thank author Lisa Harper for sticking with hers, and turning her notes into the fascinating book, A Double Life. Pregnancy is, as Harper says, interesting.

Harper's pregnancy began with conception on the painful day of September 11, 2001. " And so, on the most tragic day we had known, we lit a candle and made love...we made love because we could, because it was one of the few strengths left to us." And thus began an ordinary pregnancy--utterly, supremely ordinary, as most pregnancies are, and also, as all pregnancies are, a seemingly miraculous event. A Double Life takes the reader through a search for understanding of all that it means to be pregnant, including biologically, psychologically, and philosophically. A Double Life also gives a voice to the conflicting feelings that emerge when women face the switch from independent woman and wife to mother. When Harper feels the first labor contractions, for example, her mind goes to two separate places, "I leaned over the fencepost. I watched a fat black knuckle of a bee pollinate the yellow flower of an ice plant. I thought of our honeymoon: the cliffs of the Cinque Terre...I breathed deliberately...I knew it was nothing compared to what was to come."

While A Double Life will no doubt be a popular gift to expectant mothers, it's other value as a gift is to women who already are mothers; they will take pleasure and comfort in recognizing themselves in a story that goes back before recorded time.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By DEllis on March 27, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Man to man, I really liked this book. A "must-read" for the first-time father. If you thought your intimate's pre-menstrual emotions had you confused, wait until you and she are family-bound! Lisa Harper excels at describing the essentially incomprehensible change she experiences bodily and emotionally in the course of her pregnancy with her first child. I can only guess that other women will appreciate her account because I see my women (mother) friends nodding and smiling and saying things like "uh huh, she got that right" and "I wish someone would have told ME that"--but I KNOW the men will more than appreciate it. Reading "A Double Life" you are drawn just about as close as you can get to first-hand experience--and it is experience you will be glad you have as your own intimate moves into her unique, though humanly universal, version of being pregnant. The impossible-to-prepare-for bodily, hormonal, and emotional changes she has to endure are certainly hers alone--but you're there too. "A Double Life" can equip you with a much informed empathy, giving you some remarkable insight for hanging in there with her. Now, being an English professor, Lisa will sometimes use a word or two that may send you thumbing through a dictionary (if you have one) or go on-line to find, but all in all, throughout this sometimes curiously frightening, oftentimes sublimely inspirational story, you'll find "A Double Life" an enjoyable read. Read it before, or read it during; but read it.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By an avid reader on March 18, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I found this book to be profoundly moving, literate, beautifully written, and the easy flow from factual/medical info to the personal was seamless. Anyone - single,childless,married with or without children will find something to love about this book. The writing itself makes this a must read for those who love language.
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