I had first heard about Up For Renewal from a review I read in Bookpage a month ago. This nonfiction social experiment conducted by Cathy Alter is chick-lit meets self-help, but is presented in a contemporary, and rather sarcastic by endearing way.
From the beginning, Cathy is very up front with her faults as a newly divorced woman living in New York. Her life seems to be taken straight out of a Lauren Weisberger novel. She is in the midst of having casual cubicle sex with a co-worker, constantly chasing after unavailable men, is misunderstand by her Jewish mother and is unable to keep her life, much less her house in order. The solution? Follow the advice of 9 individually selected woman’s magazine that closely match with her demographic, (Elle, Marie Claire, O, Allure, Self, Cosmopolitan, Glamour, InStyle and Real Simple). Each month she picks a theme, and tries to apply all the knowledge garnered from the articles to help better her life. Add to the mix a new relationship and this book suddenly turns into a how-to extravaganza for nearly every aspect of a woman’s life, as defined by the above 9 magazines.
My interest in this book was come and go. There were moments when I felt I was being force-fed a written rendition of Sex and the City. There were also moments when I would cheer Cathy with her endeavors and wish her luck with trying to fix-up her life. The introduction is the toughest part to get through, because that is what felt the most forced. I am not particularly a fan of of chick-lit, nor those glossy woman’s magazines, but I somehow caught myself enjoying this book and Cathy’s struggles to try to define as well as refine herself in a one year span. After the first few chapters, I got used to Alter’s writing style and her insights into how all these magazines only perpetuated her insecurities and boy troubles, rather than absolving them. As the story progressed, Alter’s obsession with applying magazine advice to her life falls into the background as she tries to strengthen her new relationship and break old habits. Lesson learned? Follow your instincts and not glossy pages of magazines. If you are a fan of chick-lit, particularly Bridget Jones, then this nonfiction piece will be a welcome addition to your bookshelf. If you tend to stay away from chick-lit, then this book might not be your cup of tea.
FINAL GRADE: B
If you haven’t already, please check out my review and giveaway of a copy of Immortal to one lucky winner. Contest ends 8/15/2008.
***********Up For Renewal: What Magazines Taught Me About Love, Sex and Starting Over by Cathy Alter Atria, 2008 ISBN 0743288408 336 pages