I Miss You When I Blink by Mary Laura Philpott (NetGalley Review)

I Miss You When I Blink by Mary Laura Philpott
Publisher: Atria Books (April 2, 2019)
Description from the publisher: 
Mary Laura Philpott thought she’d cracked the code: Always be right, and you’ll always be happy. 
But once she’d completed her life’s to-do list (job, spouse, house, babies—check!), she found that instead of feeling content and successful, she felt anxious. Lost. Stuck in a daily grind of overflowing calendars, grueling small talk, and sprawling traffic. She’d done everything “right,” but she felt all wrong. What’s the worse failure, she wondered: smiling and staying the course, or blowing it all up and running away? And are those the only options?
In this memoir-in-essays full of spot-on observations about home, work, and creative life, Philpott takes on the conflicting pressures of modern adulthood with wit and heart. She offers up her own stories to show that identity crises don’t happen just once or only at midlife; reassures us that small, recurring personal re-inventions are both normal and necessary; and advises that if you’re going to faint, you should get low to the ground first. Most of all, Philpott shows that when you stop feeling satisfied with your life, you don’t have to burn it all down and set off on a transcontinental hike (unless you want to, of course). You can call upon your many selves to figure out who you are, who you’re not, and where you belong. Who among us isn’t trying to do that?

This collection of essays was super high on my to-be-read list. Two of my favorite books of 2018 could be described similarly (Heating & Cooling and Tell Me More). And on paper, this practically shouts YOU ARE THE TARGET AUDIENCE. I was born a year before the author and have checked all those boxes and, yes, can sometimes be type-A and a little anxious. Plus she works at Parnassus! It's blurbed by Ann Patchett! Although, while relatable in many ways, it didn't engage me like I hoped it would.
This is most likely boils down to a case of "it's not you, it's me" as I'm rather finicky about my nonfiction. If I'm going to read a memoir, I think it needs to be about someone already interesting I want to learn more about (Busy Philips), a fascinating subject I want to learn more about (any Bill Bryson book, Lab Girl) or really emotionally vulnerable, which I'd argue all of the examples I mentioned fit that bill. These essays, while revealing, felt like quick and fleeting anecdotes that were heavy on her personal philosophy and light on her life experiences. I mean, I feel as if I know Kelly Corrigan's entire network of friends and family and want to hug them all. I can't even remember Philpott's husband's name. Perhaps I should have taken the 'essays' in lieu of 'memoir' in the title to heart. 
I got the impression that the main thrust of the book is that we all have our struggles and we are still valid in feeling our pain, even though it may seem less than others people's pain. This message seemed to repeat in a variety of humorous ways, especially her metaphors: from DVF dresses to buckets of crabs or chocolate chip cookies are utilized in unlikely ways. Though very true, I often thought that she was stating the obvious. I think that's why this collection will resonate for those looking for a laugh. Good humor usually employs empathy, the old "funny because it's true" and we all laugh because we can relate. Witty, for sure, but I didn't feel moved or enlightened. The description also states 'you don't have to set of on a transcontinental hike' to feel satisfied with your life. Yet, essentially, she does run away and has the privilege to do so. Philpott absolutely calls out her privilege, at least, dedicating an entire chapter to the subject. But I am not sure she gets the extent of it, if she doesn't consider being able to flee her life (even if it's for a short time because of a house sitting gig) an enormous privilege that ends up affording her great opportunities. 
If you're a fan of humorously written essays about the everyday struggles of a white, middle aged mom balancing career and family, this would certainly fit the bill. I'd say it's a good read alike to Anna Quindlen's Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake. Definitely well written, just not to my taste.
Many thanks to Atria Books and NetGalley for the complimentary advance digital copy in exchange for my honest review!


  1. Andrea, I did enjoy a few laughs with this one but, having said that, I couldn't agree more; I was left wanting. I finished this one last night and I thought it really lost steam toward the end (or maybe that was me??). Also, even though she makes a few disclaimer-ish comments, and at least acknowledges it, I couldn't help but notice the amount of privilege she enjoys (as you've mentioned here). How many of us could leave our family responsibilities, jobs, etc., to explore the struggles and challenges she includes? That was a little tough for me to handle but, again, she does acknowledge that she "has everything." Maybe I, too, have been spoiled by Kelly Corrigan? ;) I'm listening to Inheritance by Dani Shapiro right now and loving it.

    1. Yep, spoiled rotten! I have Inheritance on my TBR and it definitely checks the boxes of being of interesting subject matter and vulnerability on behalf of the author :)

  2. I'm on the library list for this book and will still give it a whirl. I want to thank you for sharing your honest thoughts! This title was all over my Instagram news feed yesterday, and I'm getting tired of pretty book posts with NO commentary on books or generic positive commentary. I'll take an honest, if lukewarm or slightly negative, review any day!

    1. yeah, the pressure was great to give it a good review, and I usually don't do negative reviews since I request books I am pretty sure I'll like! Alas, yes, I think it's important to be honest. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on the 'gram :)