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Ada Calhoun's WHY WE CAN'T SLEEP - This Book Speaks to Me! - Jen's Review

photograph of the Why We Can't Sleep book cover

I cannot tell you how many photos of Ada Calhoun's Why We Can't Sleep: Women's New Midlife Crisis I texted to Ashley and Sara, accompanied by exclamations like "This book is speaking to me!!!" and "I started Why We Can't Sleep and have been compelled to book dart 7 times. I'm on page 6." I do not KNOW the last time I have identified so strongly with a book.

I put Why We Can't Sleep on hold at the library immediately after hearing Calhoun's interview with Roxanne Coady on the Just the Right Book podcast. Calhoun, who was born in 1976 (just like me!), confronts the challenges that the women of Generation X are finding now as they enter midlife. Calhoun writes, "We're the first women raised from birth hearing the tired cliché 'having it all'--then discovering as adults that it is very hard to have even some of it" (6). She offers a discussion of the unique pressure of endless possibilities, the career plateaus that so many women have reached, the experiences of women who are childless or divorced or mothers trapped between caring for their children and caring for their parents. She talks about perimenopause and social media, the waning appeal of sarcasm and the perils of decision fatigue (for another take on this problem, check out Don't Overthink It, the new one by Anne Bogel, which we talk about on episode 116).

collage of two photographs of book darts with caption "How many book darts do I need for a 288-page book? This many."

Calhoun does not offer a five-step plan to fix your midlife crisis. Instead, by sharing her own experiences, interviews with other Generation X women, and well-researched reasons for these particular types of midlife crises, she helps to explain WHY we're feeling this way. And that's an important first step. While I'm tempted to fill the rest of this space with quotations from the book, I will just urge you: if you're a woman born between 1965 and 1980, run to your nearest bookstore (or, if you're like me in the midst of the quarantine, head to the easiest online bookstore) and buy this book (and another tin of book darts!) immediately. You will feel seen, you will find your community, and you will feel consoled, if nothing else.

Interested in what else we're reading? Check out our Featured Books page.


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31 views2 comments


Gina Jastrzab Pelz
Gina Jastrzab Pelz
Apr 03, 2020

This sounds very interesting I need to check it out


Alix Maza
Alix Maza
Apr 03, 2020

This sounds like a totally relatable read!

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