Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Review: Divided Lives: The Public and Private Struggles of Three American Women by Elsa Walsh

Walsh has chosen three American women on the cusp of major decisions in their lives to represent all women and the challenges facing them personally and professionally in the late nineties in the US. I have had this book on my shelf probably since the time about which Walsh was writing but never made the time to read it until now which is a shame.

In the introduction, Walsh details her belief that there are six different areas in which women need to find balance in their lives in order to be happy. Happiness is not having it all or balancing merely the personal and the professional but must also take into consideration a sense of self, a sense of place, and time for self in addition to the more obvious feelings about her job, relationship with a partner, and relationship with children.

To illustrate her point, Walsh followed and interviewed three succesful women over several years: Meredith Vieira, Rachael Worby, and Alison Estabrook. A chapter is devoted to each woman, her challenges, the roadblocks she faced in trying to balance family and work, and the resolution of the major decision facing her at the time of the interviews. Each of these three women are incredibly talented and from the outside they seem to have everything they could ever want. But each of them sacrifices something of herself in pursuit of the perfect life. Walsh's descriptions of the women is in depth and sympathetic. Some of the references are a bit dated given when the book was written. For instance, we know far more about Vieira's tv career now than when she agreed to be Walsh's subject. And a little bit of research will tell the reader that all of these women have gone on to become even more respected and celebrated than they were during their tenure as Walsh's interviewees.

Walsh offers no quick answers to the balance it takes to make a woman's divided life whole but her examination of these three women's lives highlights the difficulty everyone faces in trying to do so. This was a pretty easy and quick read with the interviews being straightforward narratives and only the introductory note to readers and the concluding chapter trying to tease out the deeper meanings in the particular stories. And interesting read, I'd be curious to know if women are still facing the challenges that were the hallmark struggles in this book.


  1. Great review! I love studies like this that really delve into women's lives and choices.

  2. This sounds fascinating, and different from anything else I've seen.


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