"You think Martha Stewart shoves her clutter in a gun cabinet?"
Jen Lancaster is a New York Times bestselling author, so I feel like a dork admitting I'd never heard of her. I picked her latest book up at the library because the premise of The Tao of Martha felt irresistible to someone who makes her living in the craft industry. (I love the subtitle: My Year of LIVING; Or, Why I'm Never Getting All That Glitter Off of the Dog.)
Jen's theory for this memoir was that if she followed the lead of the queen of cleaning, organizing, entertaining, cooking, and crafting, Martha Stewart, then she'd lead a happier life. (Incidentally, she does reference Gretchen Rubin's The Happiness Project, I book I enjoyed and reviewed in 2010.) Jen's approach is quite different from Gretchen's: less scientific, more slapdash.
There are some very funny scenes, but a lot of introspective pondering, too. One of my favorite scenes is a candy making project towards the end of the book. If you've ever been stumped by an "easy" recipe, you'll definitely relate to her experience. Jen has an innocence about other people's normal daily activities that's endearing—and often funny. This early exchange with her husband Fletch is one of my favorites in the book:
"Fifteen pounds of candy? How many kids are coming again?"
Fletch is incredulous. "You bought fifteen pounds of candy for nine little kids?"
I frown. "Is that not enough?"
Overall, this book didn't cover as much ground as I'd wished with too few events spread out over several chapters. It felt a little bit like dabbing a tiny Wheat Thin cracker with Nutella and calling it dinner. I particularly wished there was more crafting in the book. (I'm happy to report that her blog currently has a "Mondays with Martha" feature where she is covering some of her latest projects. She's currently refinishing furniture. I covet her table with the map on top.)
That said, the writing is vivid and immediate. You would swear after reading one of her books that maybe you knew the author in college or that if she happened to fly into your hometown you would so totally be BFFs. Her conversational style makes for a very fast read. (She does swear, particularly when life gets aggravating such as when her beloved dogs mistake her beautiful rug as a good substitute for the lawn outside, so if that bothers you, her writing style might not be for you.)
While I wasn't over the moon with this book, I found the author's voice so engaging that I definitely want to read her other books. That's not such a bad thing. Who doesn't have a story of an inauspicious first meeting with someone who later became a central figure (a boss, a best friend, a husband)? This could be the start of a beautiful friendship.
Quotation source: Prologue, The Tao of Martha by Jen Lancaster.