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  • Writer's pictureNZ Booklovers

I Miss You When I Blink: Dispatches From A Relatively Ordinary Life by Mary Laura Philpott

Mary Laura Philpott thought she’d cracked the code: Always be right, and you’ll always be happy.

But once she’d completed her life checklist – job, spouse, house, babies – she found that instead of feeling content and successful, she felt anxious. Lost. Stuck in the daily grind of overflowing calendars, gruelling small talk, and sprawling traffic. What’s the worse failure, she wondered. Smiling and staying the course? Or blowing it all up and running away?

This collection of essays if full of spot-on observations about home, work, and creative life. Philpott tackles the conflicting pressures of modern life and offers up her own stories to show that crises don’t happen just in mid-life.

Philpott herself states that while “a sinking boat makes for a thrilling tale”, she’s also interested in how people deal with the “sinking feeling of regret” over the realities of life. There are no grand tales, no sinking boats or crazy adventures. Just real life and all its realities.

She reassures readers that small, recurring personal reinventions, dilemmas, triumphs and crises are normal and necessary. She can take the mundane and turn it into a deeply funny or deeply moving (most times both) story that readers can instantly relate to.

It is thought-provoking in numerous ways. While Philpott reflects on modern life, the reader too will reflect on their own standing in the world. There were times when her experiences were very reflective of her own circumstances – and she faced up to her own privilege and fortune. It was a little refreshing to see someone confront their privilege while also acknowledging their own existential angst.

Her essay, The Unaccountable Weight of Accountability, was a hard read, for all the right reasons. As Philpott juggles her life, the realisation that time is ticking grows stronger and stronger. For others who fall into the ‘type A’ personality, a lot of the essays in the book will act like a strong mirror.

Parents will also relate a lot to the stories Philpott tells. The Pros and Cons of Joining The Ruby Committee is a laugh-out-loud funny tale about the types of volunteering us mothers inadvertently find ourselves drawn to. Blind-Spot Detection is another parenting story that will have parents nodding their heads in agreement.

Overall, the book is an easy read. It’s light, yet somehow deep at the same time. It begs you to pick it up, read a story, then ruminate on the story and inherent lesson built in to it.

Written in an almost conversational tone, I Miss You When I Blink feels a bit like a good soul-searching session with a bunch of your closest friends.

Reviewer: Rebekah Fraser

Murdoch Books, RRP $32.99


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