Thursday, June 30, 2011

Poser: My Life in Twenty-Three Yoga Poses by Claire Dederer

Claire Dederer has been many interesting things in her life: a book reviewer, a tugboat driver, a twenty-something wandering the world and living hand to mouth, but these things are somehow peripheral to the story she tells of being a wife and mother in Poser. She seems more like the funny and slightly neurotic mom you might meet while waiting to pick up your child from school than someone whose book reviews appear in the New York Times.

In this memoir, Dederer reflects on how her perfectionism and her need to please everyone helped turn her into the exact opposite of her hippie mother: a stressed out organic supermom who feels bad about not following all of the tenets of "attachment parenting" so prevalent in her native Seattle. As a child of divorce, she constantly reevaluates her marriage, wondering if it's going to last. Her parents' 1973 separation was so amicable that everyone, including her, pretended everything was fine, that it was normal for one's mother to have both a husband and a long-term boyfriend.

An analysis of the legacy of divorce, plus yoga, does not sound like a recipe for a funny book, but lines like "The studio was decorated in the style of Don't Be Afraid, We're Not a Cult" constantly made me laugh. Or this one, in which she describes her neighborhood: "In Phinney Ridge, people don't have 'beware of dog' signs. They have 'please be mindful of dog' signs."

Some interest in yoga is a prerequisite to liking the book, but you needn't take it too seriously or actually do yoga yourself. The book's self-deprecating humor and a healthy suspicion of yoga teachers who lecture their classes on Hindu spirituality makes things more accessible to non-yogis. And yet, the spiritual side of yoga will sneak in there anyhow and make a believer out of you, as you watch Claire slowly transform into a more relaxed, accepting version of herself. I'm listening to the audiobook, whose narrator, Christine Williams, does an excellent job.

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