“The Unmade Bed: The Messy Truth about Men and Women in the 21st Century”

By Stephen Marche, commentary by Sarah Fulford

c. 2017, Simon & Schuster

$26/$32.99 Canada; 256 pages

Your great-grandfather was a manly man. He got up with the sun and worked hard all day; with his hands and by the sweat of his brow, he made sure the family was safe, sheltered, and fed.

You can only imagine the kind of life he endured – just like he never imagined the life you live. And in the new book “The Unmade Bed” by Stephen Marche, you’ll see how times, they’re still a-changing.

Cruise through social media for a few minutes at random, and you may notice a thing called “mansplaining,” which describes “the sheer bulk of verbiage men foist onto the world.”

Women laugh about it, men shake their heads, but is it really a thing? And what are our other 21st century differences?

Of all the “ideologies that dared to reconfigure humanity,” says Marche, feminism has left the biggest mark on society. We are nearly at a time when a majority of households boast a woman as breadwinner. Women enroll in college in ever-increasing numbers and though there’s still a wage disparity overall, they’re starting to catch up to men in annual earnings. That, says Marche, is a “byproduct of capitalism,” and yet, in North America, we largely live in a patriarchy.

Men have seen many changes, too, especially in roles within the family.

Today, “ …  fatherhood has never mattered more,” Marche says; in fact, recent studies show “that young unmarried men want children slightly more than [do] young unmarried women.”

Gone are the days when men worked overtime to financially support a family they rarely saw; men are more active with their children today, to the benefit of both father and child. Still, fathers get a bum deal: watch a few TV sitcoms, and you’ll see a lot of dumb dads.

Overall, it should come as no surprise that we are seeing these “rearrangements.” Many of us would agree that our parents modeled some of the attitudes we’re seeing now, just as we serve as examples for today’s children. And we need to keep doing what we’re doing, says Marche.

“We need rearrangement rather than revolution.”

Much like its title might suggest, “The Unmade Bed” is rather rumpled.

While it can certainly be said that author Stephen Marche makes many good points (with the help of his wife, Sarah Fulford, who weighs in via footnotes), there are times in which it takes pages to get to the crux of the matter at hand.

The meat of the matter eventually arrives, often in the most sobering of tones but in the meantime, we’re asked to follow a thought-line that roams from widely varied topics, some of which seem only peripherally linked to the discussion. Readers may also find a touch of humor in Marche’s words, but even that can feel almost apologetic.

Its thought-provoking statistics and the occasional good news could help you enjoy this book more, but that mightn’t be enough. It’s true that “The Unmade Bed” isn’t probably your great-grandfather’s kind of book … but it might not be yours, either.

“Two Good Dogs”

By Susan Wilson

c. 2017, St. Martin’s Press

$26.99, $37.99 Canada; 342 pages

One for the money, two for the show.

Everybody knows that double is better in sales (buy-one-get-one!), socks, and help (two hands make light work). It takes two for marriage, a duet, tennis team, and a tango. And in the new novel “Two Good Dogs” by Susan Wilson, two tails are better than one.

Skye Mitchell knew what she was getting herself into.  The first time she saw the Lake View Hotel in the Berkshires, its peaceful surroundings charmed her, yet she couldn’t ignore the shabbiness of the rental cabins and the sheer difficulty in just getting there. Still, she purchased it, and though it cost more to run most weeks than it earned, owning the Lake View was a dream come true for Skye, if not for her daughter, Cody.

Cody, in fact, was part of the reason Skye bought the Lake View: after Skye’s ex-husband was killed in a drug deal, she needed to get Cody away. The city wasn’t the place to raise a child, although 14-year-old Cody didn’t see things that way, and she’d become sullen and nasty.

Cody Mitchell hated her life. Her new school was awful and she didn’t fit in. The only friend she’d made was a Goth who called herself Black Molly, which says pretty much everything, and rumors about them hurt. Cody wished she could turn back time, unsee something she saw, and talk to her mother about what was bothering her, but she couldn’t. It wasn’t dramatic to say that silence was a matter of life or death.

Escaping to the Berkshires did double-duty for Adam March. While it was true that he had a client up in the town of North Adams, the Lake View was also a great place to hide from well-meaning eyes, sad-emoji faces, and faux sympathy. Adam had enough of all that after his wife died, and he couldn’t get out of town fast enough. All he really needed was his dog, Chance, and room to heal …

Fans of author Susan Wilson’s “One Good Dog,” you read that right: Adam and Chance are back in “Two Good Dogs” but is this new novel twice as good?

Hmm, I didn’t think so – not quite, for two reasons.

First, the “secret” that Cody carries is belabored: we learn pretty early what it is and why Cody is mum on it. Wilson does a great job on expressing Cody’s fear, but for as much foofaraw that goes with it, the Big Reveal is an abrupt let-down. It’s as if we’re promised a magnificent gift and we get a gumball prize instead.

Secondly, there are times when Chance is infinitely smarter than the people around him, especially in his verbiage. The pup uses $15 words when common speech would’ve been much more apt. Dogs are smart, of course, but they’re not thesaurus-users and that started bugging me.

Having said all that, if you loved the first book, how could you possibly miss this one?  You can’t, that’s how, so get ready: sights on “Two Good Dogs” and …. Go!

The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. She has been reading since she was 3 years old and never goes anywhere without a book. Terri lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 11,000 books.

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