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The Bitch in the House: 26 Women Tell the Truth About Sex, Solitude, Work, Motherhood, and Marriage Paperback – September 17, 2002

3.6 out of 5 stars 106 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

"This book was born out of anger," begins Cathi Hanauer, which seems appropriate considering the book's title: The Bitch in the House. What could have been a collective gripe about the day-to-day routine of holding a family or relationship together is instead a witty, and sometimes bitchy, read. These postfeminist mothers, lovers, wives, and independent women candidly put forward their anger in the taffy-pull world of household responsibility. Jill Bialosky puts it most succinctly, "I had wanted to get married, but I realized now that I had never wanted to be a 'wife'." There are essays written by those who willfully, and often playfully, seek a life independent from domesticated routine, and others who have aged past the concerns of being a self-fulfilled and responsible mother. Author and poet Ellen Gilchrist, who is also a mother and a grandmother, sets this lasting tone of contentment, "Family and work. Family and work. I can let them be at war, with guilt as their nuclear weapon and mutually assured destruction as their aim, or I can let them nourish each other."

Not entirely angry, it is ultimately a satisfying read. There are no intended messages on how women can improve their relationships with their husbands, partners, and children. That is the beauty of the book. They have instead revealed modern motherhood, and solitude, as it is, and may have been all along. --Karin Rosman

From Publishers Weekly

In the spirit of Virginia Woolf, who wrote of killing the "Angel in the House," these 26 women mostly professional writers focus on the inner "bitch": the frustration, anger and rage that's never far from the surface of many women's lives. They sound off on the difficult decisions of living with lovers, marrying, staying single and having children. Those who haven't chosen the single life are almost always frustrated by their mates' incompetence or their toddlers' neediness. (They reserve special scorn for overly laid-back live-in lovers content to live off a hardworking woman's checkbook.) While a handful of entries touch other sources of anger being criticized for one's weight, simultaneously caring for ailing parents and a young family, coping with a husband who's out to win his baby daughter's loyalty most focus on the love vs. work problem. For many of these women, this means a struggle over the right to be a bitch and inflict unpleasantness on others for the sake of a higher goal (one's work) versus the feminine imperative to "make nice." While unbridled rage is terribly cathartic even in print it's the quieter moments that provide more food for thought. Daphne Merkin's observation that she's "more equipped to handle the risks of loneliness than those of intimacy" and thus better off divorced, or Nancy Wartik's thought that "some compromises might actually be healthy," will ring true for many readers. Others may find it comforting to know that even smart, articulate, successful women can have deeply unsettled inner lives.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow; 1st edition (September 17, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0066211662
  • ISBN-13: 978-0066211664
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (106 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,531,700 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on September 21, 2002
Format: Paperback
Anyone under 50 who doesn't relate to the issues raised in these essays -- work, marriage, children, and compromise -- is living in a bubble.
Don't be put off by the title -- or by the common misrepresentation (like by Katie Couric on the Today Show) that it's the whining of women who seemingly "have it all." The point is, you CAN'T have it all, and have to try to forge happiness anyway. Crack it open and you won't put it down.
My favorites include "Atilla the Honey I'm Home" about a woman who is ultra cool and competent at work and then comes home and takes out all her stress on her family. "How We Became Strangers" about the effect the arrival of a first child has on marital bliss. And "Crossing the Line in the Sand" about losing your temper with your kids.
The book is organized in rough age order of the contributors, so it starts with women in their twenties just on the cusp of What The Future Holds, and ends with a few in their (60s?) about the roads taken and not. In between you have a wide range of experiences -- fidelity and not, equal parenting and not, successful relationships and not, getting married or not, feeling good about work or not.
These aren't easy issues and the book confronts them head-on. The essayists don't provide solutions so much as comfort -- a community of like-minded souls who realize what we're all up against and are trying to make sense of it all.
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By A Customer on October 14, 2002
Format: Paperback
I realize this book was written by seemingly white, middle class Yankee women -- but it sure spoke to me, a black woman way down in the deep south.
Obviously, I didn't relate to all of these women -- some I thought were a bit triffling and way too self-absorbed.
But reading some of these stories was like reading my own journal, but more eloquently put, especially "Excuse me while I explode", and "How we became strangers".
I was comforted to know that I'm not alone in my daily struggles to be a good Mom, wife, friend, daughter and co-worker. Just that fact alone helps me to exhale and be grateful for all of my plessings.
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Format: Paperback
I found several of these essays quite interesting, but grouping them together as a "women speak out" book is misleading. I found it frustrating that the majority of women in the book were upper-middle class, educated and for some reason they all lived in New York City (not all, but many). I'm assuming (but could be wrong here) that they were mostly white. It got me thinking...why didn't the editors get an essay or two from a Hispanic working-class mom in California? Or a divorced woman in Detroit?
Also, I hate to say it, but a lot of these women come across as whiny. I know, I know. I'll get kicked out of the feminist club for saying it (and trust me, I've paid my dues), but there's a lot of delusion among these women. They seem to expect the men in their lives to behave...well...like women. And that just isn't realistic. There's also a lot of justifying of what in my opinion is questionable behavior. Personally, I found the essay by the woman who had a married man's baby really frustrating. Not because she kept the baby and went on with her life, but because she seemed to have no guilt or remorse about sleeping with a married man. It's as if the man's wife doesn't exist at all to her -- she's written off in one sentence (did she ever even find out her husband fathered another woman's child?).
There are some terrific pieces in here, and the writing is very strong, but overall it was a depressing disappointment.
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By Amy Hoang on November 17, 2003
Format: Paperback
According to this book, the everywoman in America is a neurotic, passive agressive professional writer. While I'll grant that the stories were interesting and did ring true for me in some aspects, I ended up just being annoyed that the editor failed to seek out more diverse women with more diverse professions for her book. Couldn't she have found an engineer, a black woman, a Latina to chronicle their stories? Hanauer started out with lofty goals in her introduction, but didn't end up meetig them for me.
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Format: Paperback
Like many books that claim to be about all or most women, this book really only speaks for upper-middle-class women who appear to "have it all."

The stories were good, and written well. I especially liked the story about having houseguests by Chitra Divakaruni, because it talked about differences between Eastern and Western cultures.

However, I also felt a lot of these essays had an underlying self-indulgence, self-absorbedness and sense of superiority about them; almost as if the authors were unconciously bragging about their oh-so-stressful, over-achieving, affluent lifestyles while soliciting sympathy from the reader. "I never realized how difficult it would be to have it all: a loving husband, kids, a great career, the latest SUV!" If these women had been single working-class mothers with low-paying jobs, I would have felt for them much more.

I especially thought the woman in Sarah Miller's story was pathetic for feeling superior to her friend because she had a fiance and her friend didn't. It's like: grow up, already. She claims to be in her late 20s/early 30s, but to me she sounded more like a neurotic teenager. I also noticed that many of these women - including Sarah Miller's protagonist - admitted that they preferred men who were financially well-off. To me, these are not very feminist attitudes, and the women in this book are supposed to be so liberated. Talk about hypocrisy....?

If anything, this kind of mentality makes these authors sound more like shallow, spoiled Rules girls at heart.

If you want to know how yuppie women live from a sociological perspective, or you're dying to be one of them, then I highly recommend this book. There's also a male version of this book called the Bastard On The Couch, which I haven't read.
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