Published by NAL on June 4th 2013
Genres: Funny-ha-ha, Memoir, Non-Fiction
Also by this author: Here I Go Again
One would think that with Jen Lancaster’s impressive list of bestselling self-improvement memoirs—Bitter Is the New Black; Bright Lights, Big Ass; Such a Pretty Fat; Pretty in Plaid; My Fair Lazy; and Jeneration X—that she would have it all together by now.
One would be wrong.
Jen’s still a little rough around the edges. Suffice it to say, she’s no Martha Stewart. And that is exactly why Jen is going to Martha up and live her life according to the advice of America’s overachieving older sister—the woman who turns lemons into lavender-infused lemonade.
By immersing herself in Martha’s media empire, Jen will embark on a yearlong quest to take herself, her house, her husband (and maybe even her pets) to the next level—from closet organization to craft making, from party planning to kitchen prep.
Maybe Jen can go four days without giving herself food poisoning if she follows Martha’s dictates on proper storage....Maybe she can grow closer to her girlfriends by taking up their boring-ass hobbies like knitting and sewing.…Maybe she can finally rid her workout clothes of meatball stains by using Martha’s laundry tips.… Maybe she can create a more meaningful anniversary celebration than just getting drunk in the pool with her husband....again. And maybe, just maybe, she’ll discover that the key to happiness does, in fact, lie in Martha’s perfectly arranged cupboards and artfully displayed charcuterie platters.
‘…ready or not, happiness, here I come.’
Organization = happiness? That’s what Jen Lancaster has set out to prove. Her life is in dire need of some organization not just within her house but in her life in general and she thinks that in doing so she’ll be less stressful and have more happiness. She decides to emulate the Queen of Organization: Martha Stewart. The Tao of Martha is her personal accounting of incorporating Martha’s ideals into her daily life, both when it goes right and when it goes horribly wrong.
Having read all of Jen’s memoirs, it’s become a requirement to pick any new ones up even if they have steadily declined over the years. I’m thinking it’s a combination of lack of new material that’s actually worth writing about and a dramatic change in lifestyle from what we originally saw in her first memoir ‘Bitter is the New Black’. In ‘Bitter’, Jen is a much more relatable person as she’s struggling to survive as her and her husband both are unemployed. With each memoir she is slowly transforming into the person who talks only of her cleaning ladies, monumentally expensive landscaping plans and her shopping excursions to affluent stores that I couldn’t even afford to breathe the air of. While the writing still manages to sustain (somewhat) the snark that we’ve all come to know and love, the stories have become achingly superficial. Prime example:
‘Shoot, I haven’t even reserved an organic turkey yet! (“I’ll take ‘The Most OverPrivileged First-World Complain to Ever Be Uttered’ for a hundred, Alec!”)’
Admitting that you’re being shallow still doesn’t make it funny.
While there were a few laugh out loud moments, I found the majority of ‘Tao’ to be incredibly boring. Early in the beginning there’s a 7+ page accounting of her cleaning her desk which includes an itemized description of everything she had stored from over the years. (Considering she just moved/bought her house a few years ago, all this excessive garbage she dragged to the new house makes it even less funny. Like the broken wine glass shards. Really?) One thing I’ve always loved about her memoirs is how each chapter is a story in and of itself but in ‘Tao’, again, wondering if she was just running out of material, there were several stories that lacked any sort of point and entertainment value (and a few stories that were entirely way too personal and included info I would rather just not know). Like the chapter where we receive entirely way too much info regarding her digestive system. Or the chapter where she discusses her massive love for zucchini for several pages. Or the bit how she’s attempting to figure out why her roses are dying when her friend points out that she probably shouldn’t be watering them with a high pressure hose (duh?)
While the funnies were lacking in consistency, this was still a fun and easy read that also managed to teach me a few things:
-15 pounds of Easter candy for 9 kids = bad math.
-When gardening make sure you don’t wear your older underwear so ticks can’t crawl up and attach themselves to your lady-parts.
-If I start stocking up on emergency rations, six jars of marshmallow fluff is not essential.
-If my doctor ever prescribes me Ambien, I’m chaining myself to the bed.