Written by Kelsey Gaus
Following the success of“Thanksgiving in Mongolia,” The New Yorker article that won the 2014 National Magazine Award, Ariel Levy has expanded the chilling piece into a memoir.
In The Rules Do Not Apply, Levy chronicles the adventure she never wanted until late in her thirties; motherhood. Comparing her friends to kernels of popcorn exploding in matrimony and motherhood, Levy describes the growing pressure to not miss out on having her own child. While on assignment in Mongolia, she prematurely gives birth alone, on the hotel’s bathroom floor. But we already knew all this from her essay.
The book allows readers a more concise look at the events leading up to this tragic moment as well as the debilitating grief after. For anyone confused about the omission of her significant other in the article version, reading the book clarifies this.
Her self-inflicting drama tendencies creates a complexity in Levy’s personal life that only an entire book can explain. She begins to cheat on her wife with an exceptionally troublesome ex, one that underwent a sex change but remains as possessive as ever. And the baby’s father? Well, you’ll just have to read the book to find who that is. Although famous for her profiles of others, Levy’s openness about her own life enables readers to sympathize with even her most questionable decisions.
Levy also creates her settings effectively. Readers do not merely imagine the New York scene in the mid 90’s or the inside of a Mongolian ambulance, they feel it. From the frozen East Asian landscape to the soft breezes blowing through her Shelter Island bedroom window, Levy gives the details readers need to feel her pain.
Like all successful memoirs, Levy shows change by building the tension and setting up her own fall. Readers see the determined, independent young woman age and become sad and lonely. Despite the book’s sadness, readers will devour this book.
Rating: 9 out of 10. My only complaint is that sometimes her self-absorption becomes a bit of a turn-off. She justifies all of her actions including the ones that directly impact the people around her, rather than simply admit she was wrong. The few times that she does hint at an err in judgement, it fails to be convincing.
The Rules Do Not Apply hits stands this Tuesday, Mar. 14.