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.
Levy picks you up and hurls you through the story of how she built an unconventional life and then watched it fall apart with astonishing speed. Like much of her generation, she was raised to resist traditional rules—about work, about love, and about womanhood.
In this memoir, Levy chronicles the adventure and heartbreak of being “a woman who is free to do whatever she chooses.” Her own story of resilience becomes an unforgettable portrait of the shifting forces in our culture, of what has changed—and of what is eternal.
Author: Ariel Levy
“Daring to think that the rules do not apply is the mark of a visionary. It’s also a symptom of narcissism.”
Ariel Levy’s memoir is a punching account of her roller coaster of a life. I listened to her narrate the audiobook, which is far and away my favorite way to do memoirs, and she speaks as eloquently as she writes. She yanked my heart around and dropped truths that feel like guilty secrets to each of us, but that each of us understands all the same.
She starts with her less-than-perfect childhood and soon moves through the years in which she was just starting to find herself, scraping by and hungry for a career and sense of purpose in NYC. Then she meets her spouse, starts writing for the New Yorker, makes decisions she will regret forever, fights through a marriage that is far from easy, endures unconscionable tragedy, and begins to learn how to live with the grief that will accompany her forever.
“When I was young. When I had no idea that all over the city, all over the world, there were people walking around sealed in their own universes of loss, independent solar systems of suffering closed off from the regular world, where things make sense and language is all you need to tell the truth.”
Just like in her life, there were parts of this book that moved a bit slowly and parts that wouldn’t let you go. Overall, though, Levy’s memoir moved me, and the lessons—purpose—she managed to squeeze out of all her experiences made me feel a little more raw, a little more connected to the shared experiences of others, and a little more human. And that’s really what a memoir is supposed to do, right?