The Rules Do Not Apply
At a dinner party one night, Ariel Levy is asked "Are you the Ariel who all the bad things happened to?" She writes, "I said that I was, and wondered how many other Ariels she could possibly have to choose from..." (167)
The summary of the memoir, well, sums it up: "When thirty-eight-year-old New Yorker writer Ariel Levy left for a reporting trip to Mongolia in 2012, she was pregnant, married, financially secure, and successful on her own terms. A month later, none of that was true." A bit of a misleading description: the marriage doesn't fall apart because of the trip to Mongolia (and neither does her miscarriage happen because of her trip to Mongolia), but Mongolia becomes the way she pinpoints the moment when it feels like her life fell apart. Based off an essay published in The New Yorker, "Thanksgiving in Mongolia", Levy's memoir dives into the grief of loosing her baby 19 weeks into her pregnancy-- and having her marriage fall apart at the same time.
I was struck by the line "Nothing really bad could happen to me in my movie, because I was the protagonist" (47) because it reminded me of a song in Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, a TV show that deals smartly and honestly with mental illness. Aren't we all the heroes in our own story? Doesn't that mean everything should work out? She writes later, “Women of my generation were given the lavish gift of our own agency by feminism—a belief that we could decide for ourselves how we would live, what would become of us.” (69) She feels tricked -- because she feels like her agency was taken away from her, in one fell swoop.
Ariel lays it all out for her readers. Unflinchingly, she puts herself on the page, flaws and all. It's hard to critique a memoir focused on grief and a traumatic miscarriage; but parts of her story feel jumbled. But again: who am I to say what she should include and what she shouldn't include? The ending was strange -- I won't spoil -- but it left me thinking 'huh??' when for most of the book, I was completely engrossed in her writing and story.