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The Slippery Year

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The Slippery Year

Melanie Gideon's hilarious memoir is a disarmingly honest take on marriage and motherhood by a woman who realized she was sleepwalking through life and decided she needed to do something about it. The...
Melanie Gideon's hilarious memoir is a disarmingly honest take on marriage and motherhood by a woman who realized she was sleepwalking through life and decided she needed to do something about it. The...
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  • Melanie Gideon's hilarious memoir is a disarmingly honest take on marriage and motherhood by a woman who realized she was sleepwalking through life and decided she needed to do something about it.

    The Slippery Year chronicles her struggle to rediscover meaning and pleasure in life while navigating the comical ups and downs of cohabiting with a husband, a child, and a dog: mattress wars with her snoring mate, the psychological minefield of the school carpool line, and sending her son to sleep-away camp for the first time. Gideon manages to be laugh-out-loud funny while also reflecting beautifully and movingly on her quest to appreciate what she has.

    From the Trade Paperback edition.
  • From the book

    SeptemberWhenever my husband casually says, "Hey, hon, come take a look at this Web site," I know it's going to cost me. All of our largest purchases have been preceded by my being summoned to his computer in this manner. So when he says this a few weeks before his birthday, I knew it's really going to cost me, and I don't mean just financially.

    "Check this out," he says, pointing. "Isn't it cool?"

    I glance at the Ford E-350 on his screen. It looks like the sort of vehicle that shuttles retirees to the local mall. "Kind of," I reply.

    He frowns and says, "It's not just any old van. It's a camper. It would be perfect for us. You said you wanted to see the West."

    I do want to see the West, in theory anyway. In fact, seeing the West was one of the reasons we moved with our nine-year-old son, Ben, to California. But travel takes so much planning, and as I've gotten older I'm increasingly less willing to tolerate discomfort: the crowds, the traffic, everybody trying to reach the same place at the same time.

    His fingers pound at the keyboard. "It's got captain's seats."

    "What's a captain's seat?"

    "That means it's very, very comfortable."

    "Nice," I say, getting back to my book.

    Ten minutes later, he says, "I'm going to get one for us."

    "Us?" I say.

    "Yes, us--you know, you and me?"

    The subtext being: Aren't you lucky you married a man who wants to buy a family van as his midlife-crisis vehicle instead of a Porsche Carrera GT?

    The good news is he finds a used van. The bad news is it's in South Dakota. So he pays somebody to fly to South Dakota, pick up the van and drive it back. "It's an amazing deal," he says. "It only has fifteen thousand miles on it, and the woman is a motivated seller." Once the van is on its way, my husband tells me the truth. The woman was not the original owner; her son was, or had been. He bought the van to go kayaking in the most untouched places. Then one day he went out in his boat and never returned. This van delivered him to his death. And now his heartbroken mother had sold it to us.

    "You have to give it back," I tell him. "He died in it."

    "He didn't die in it. He died in his kayak."

    "Well, he might as well have died in the van," I say. "He was in the van right before he died."

    My husband sighs.

    I want him to be happy, us to be happy. It seems every day we hear that another couple has decided to call it quits. More often than not in our circle, the wife leaves the husband. When talking divorce with these women--mothers, like me, of schoolage children--we speak in a shorthand that ricochets around in my head like the rhymes of Dr. Seuss.

    They say: Feeling dead. Dead in bed. Too much snore. There's got to be more.

    I say: Turn his head. His head in bed. You'll have no more. No more snore.

    Now, there are plenty of good reasons to end a marriage, but each time I hear of another impending divorce I can't help but reevaluate my own marriage. Do I want more? Does he? And how do I know if what I have is enough?

    When the van finally arrives, I realize it is not the same as the one in that first picture I saw on the Web site. This is no ordinary van for transporting the elderly. It's a 4x4 Rock Crawler version, with tinted windows, a roof rack and a camper extension that explodes out the top. Built to climb rock gorges and traverse rivers, our van also features on its front bumper a cattle-guard contraption that must have been handy when plowing through herds of wildebeests in the Serengeti but is presumably unnecessary in the suburbs.

    As I circle the van, trying to hide my shock,...

About the Author-
  • Melanie Gideon was born and raised in Rhode Island. She now lives in the Bay Area with her husband and son.

  • San Francisco Chronicle "Gideon has written a love song to family and to life. What a lovely song it is.... One of the happiest books to cross our paths in a very long time. Kind ... loving ... funny ... wise."
  • Christian Science Monitor "Hilarious.... A sinuous journey--complete with skids and scraped knees--toward greater engagement with life . . . treated with humor and heart."
  • San Francisco Magazine "After a few chapters of one gorgeous and self-ridiculing sentence after another, you realize that Gideon doesn't need to detonate her life to shake things up. There's a perfect storm raging inside her head, and its hilarity is drama enough for anyone."
  • Bookpage "A self-deprecating, wickedly funny and mildly philosophical reflection on marriage, mothering, middle age and the march toward life's meaning."
  • Redbook "An honest, funny tribute to the way love can survive waves of doubt, miscommunications and highly dubious purchases."
  • Book Bench ( "By the end of the book I felt like I had just spent several hours knocking back drinks with an especially funny friend. Which is some of my highest praise."
  • New York Times "With self-effacing humor, Ms. Gideon chronicles the mundanity and small epiphanies of everyday life."
  • San Diego Tribune "Gideon's a deceptively smooth writer; her memoir's packed with insights that sneak up on you."
  • Booklist "There is nothing contrived, trite, or holier-than-thou in this crisply hilarious, candid, and affecting contemplation. Instead, Gideon's self deprecating and wry insights into the mysteries of marriage, parenthood and the evolution of the self are astute, pragmatic, and generous, providing the perfect antidote to the everyday blues."
  • Kirkus Reviews " A hilariously probing account of personal growth and stasis. Epiphanies abound in Gideon's account . . . refreshing and sassy, with more than a dash of tenderness thrown in."
  • Ayelet Waldman, author of Bad Mother "In this marvelous memoir Ms. Gideon appears to be channeling everything I've ever felt, thought, feared, hoped about motherhood."
  • Allison Pearson, author of I Don't Know How She Does It "Like all the best books, The Slippery Year reminds us that we are not alone--not alone in our fears about our kids, not alone in our struggle to make meaning of our lives, and most definitely not alone in our volcanic rages about the car pool line. Melanie Gideon is a wonderful companion--smart, rueful and painfully funny. Truly the one thing wrong with this book is that it had to end."
  • Elinor Lipman, author of The Family Man and Then She Found Me "Within hours of finishing The Slippery Year, I was raving to friends about its perfect balance of gorgeous writing, quirky wit, and lovable impertinences. I laughed and cried and saw myself in Melanie Gideon's chronicle of maternal neuroses and wifely doubts. What a pleasure to find such a dear and funny book."
  • Po Bronson, author of NurtureShock

    "Gideon has an utterly charming way of turning the constant compromises of married life into riotous poetic insight."
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    Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
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