Older, Wiser, and (Getting) Happier
Sequel to The Bitch in the House
Edited by Cathi Hanauer
Available now from William Morrow (HarperCollins)
THE BITCH IS BACK is a collection of twenty-six essays by women in their forties, fifties, and sixties. Many of those women first contributed essays to THE BITCH IN THE HOUSE back in 2002, although some of the contributors are new.
I have not read THE BITCH IN THE HOUSE, but was still attracted to THE BITCH IS BACK due to the promise of stories about real, older women. When there is a repeat contributor, her essay is prefaced by a short explanation of her previous essay and how the two connect. I don't feel that I was missing context, but I do want to read THE BITCH IN THE HOUSE, which is noted multiple times to be the angrier of the two anthologies.
There is no overarching theme to the essays, although they're roughly
arranged into four groups (midlife crisis, sex, rocky marriages,
starting over). Each one is a personal essay that tackles what the
author wants to say about her life and her choices. The contributors all
have strong voices, although some of them have stories we've heard
Part of the reason there is no overarching theme is because editor Cathi Hanauer solicited stories from a range of women. Jennifer Finney Boylan is a transgender woman, who writes about maintaining her relationship with her wife through her transition. Kathy Thomas is poor, her life of hard blue collar work a sharp contrast to some of the more privileged contributors. Veronica Chambers is black Latina, and writes about how her relationship with religion isn't traditional but still conflicts with her husband's atheism.
What I appreciate about this anthology is that it not only shows how many ways there are to be a woman, but that life continues. Most of these women have been through terrible things, including divorce, sexual abuse, domestic abuse, but they're still living and breathing and doing.
I wouldn't read all of THE BITCH IS BACK at once, because the essays can get monotonous. But it is nice to dole out these women's stories, because they've been through interesting times.