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The Ten-Year Nap


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ISBN13: 9781594489785
ISBN10: 1594489785
Condition: Standard
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One down and two across, there she was again, a lone woman in the window, pressed close to the glass. For several days, she had been there on and off, standing in front of the window, on crutches, as if wanting to be seen.

   Inside her own apartment, Nina stopped to watch. She was disturbed by the young womans presence, proprietary on behalf of the middle-aged couple whom shed come to expect in that window, reading contentedly on their couch. The couple rarely talked to one another, but neither of them seemed bothered by the silence. Sometimes the husband disappeared from view, returning with two mugs in hand. Occasionally the wife stretched her legs toward her husband and he absent-mindedly grasped one of her feet. But once Nina had looked out as the wife started to walk away and the husband stood and pulled her closer. Caught off guard by the gesture, the woman had nearly stumbled, and to steady her, he pulled her into an embrace. To everyones surprise, he twirled her, and for a few minutes before resuming their quiet routine, they had danced.

   Ninas living room window offered no sweeping city views, no glimpse of the river or the sky, only the ornate prewar building across the street. She and Jeremy had lived in this Upper West Side apartment for five years but still hadnt gotten around to buying shades. Even though she looked into other peoples windows, shed convinced herself that no one was, in turn, watching them. With two sleeping kids, she couldnt leave the apartment, but it was enough to look out at the varieties of other peoples lives. At nine in the evening the windows across the street were like the rows of televisions in an electronics store, all visible at once. Ninas eyes flickered back and forth, but she inevitably returned to watching the same square, waiting for the couple to reappear, their quiet togetherness stirring her desire to ride out of her apartment into theirs. Hoping to find them there again, hoping that this might be the night in which they looked up from their books, she didnt move, not until she was pulled away by the scream of a child.

   The interminable cycle of sleeping and waking had begun. In his bedroom, her three-year-old son, Max, was thrashing, yet asleep. His eyes were open but he saw no way out of his nightmare, no path to outrun whatever pursued him. “Theres nothing to be afraid of,” she whispered into Maxs ear, and his crying subsided. An hour later, it was Lily. From the bassinet that was squeezed into her and Jeremys bedroom, Nina picked her up to nurse. As soon as Lily latched on, her crying ceased. For the moment, there was nothing more her daughter needed.

   Before either of the kids woke again, Nina went back to the window, hoping to see not just the outrageous or the extraordinary, but any truthful moment of small ordinary. During the day, every feeling came shellacked with protective plastic coating. The only language spoken was certainty. Outwardly, she was reciting the maxims along with everyone else: The kids were always delicious and she wouldnt miss this for the world, and there was nowhere shed rather be, and yes, it did go so fast. On the faces of other mothers, Nina sometimes caught the rumblings of discontent, but their inner lives were tucked away. Like theirs, her hands were always occupied, but while she was making dinner or bathing a child, while pushing one of them in a swing, rocking the other to sleep, her thoughts had begun to rove.

   In the window across the way, there was still no sign of the couple reading. Once again, it was the young woman on crutches looking out, and Nina was tempted to wave. But that would end the illusion. Curtains would be pulled shut, lights switched off, the citys windows suddenly empty and dark. Instead, Nina stayed hidden, and from the shadows, she watched as a young man dressed in jeans and a black T-shirt emerged from another room and joined the young woman. Wide awake for the first time all day, Nina craned her neck, watching as the couple began to argue, their gestures sharp, their bodies taut. The man tried to hug her but the woman wriggled from his grasp, put her hands over her face, shielding herself from what he was saying.

   The woman turned away from the man, but he wasnt dissuaded by her anger. He came up behind her and pressed against her. He took her crutches from her and she leaned into him as he entangled his hands in her long dark hair, ran his lips down the nape of her neck, cupped her breasts in his hands. Nina felt the womans resistance subsiding and she wished there was a way to draw closer to them still.

   Surely they realized they were before an open window; surely that was part of the pleasure. Could they see her breathing their every breath, feeling their every touch? The woman turned around, her back now to Nina, as the man carefully helped her to the couch where he knelt in front of her and pulled down her pants. As their dark clothes unpeeled, giving way to pale flashes of skin, Nina was inside her own body yet inside theirs as well. The womans earlier reluctance was gone. She wasnt held back by her injured foot. Her thin body wriggled out from underneath and she climbed astride him. Her back arched, her body bare, she turned her face to the window, looking directly at the spot where Nina was standing.

   She saw the look of defiance and understood the bold exhibitionist plea. But it was something else that made her want to press herself to the glass pane and move closer still. This woman was trying to let her know, “I see you, I know you are there.” In response, she wanted to reach her hand across and loosen the constraints of her own life as well. The city had cracked momentarily apart, a slivered opening in the larger night. Nina might be home with her kids, another interminable night with Jeremy at work, but she was also outside, part of the thrumming city. Nina waited for the reading couple to emerge from some back room where theyd been hiding and join the younger couple on their couch. She waited to see everyones inner thoughts transmitted in flashes of light long and short. For every apartment in every building to light up. For neighbors everywhere to strip down, lay themselves bare. For the couples across the way to raise their windows and invite her in.

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gail mazza, September 17, 2008 (view all comments by gail mazza)
Please read this book very slowly -- it's that good. It's a beautifully written book about a woman living in Manhattan who turns 40 and her group of friends. Meg Wolitzer covers friendship, motherhood, working and not working, marriage and girl crushes.
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Laurie Blum, April 12, 2008 (view all comments by Laurie Blum)
At 64 years of age & a grandmother of eight, I guess I am just "too old & too past the years of being a young mother who is out of the workforce" to totally being able to identify with Meg Wolitzer's "The Ten-Year Nap." I found myself taking a nap for most of the novel.

I did, however, rather enjoy the attitudes of the four main characters & look forward to hearing that they have successfully "survived the phase of young children & being a stay-at-home Mom" ... alas, (sigh!) and have returned to their professional & social standards. I promise "there is a life after raising a family!" You will find yourself smiling as we watch our own young offspring (now parents) raise their little ones which does not come with a "how to booklet."

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(13 of 19 readers found this comment helpful)
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Product Details

Wolitzer, Meg
Riverhead Trade
Lipman, Elinor
Meg Wolitze
Mirvis, Tova
Contemporary Women
Psychological fiction
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
from 12
readers guide online
9 x 6 in 1 lb
Age Level:
from 18

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Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
Fiction and Poetry » Literature » Contemporary Women
Reference » Writing » General

The Ten-Year Nap Used Hardcover
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$9.95 In Stock
Product details 400 pages Riverhead Hardcover - English 9781594489785 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "In her latest novel, Wolitzer (The Wife; etc.) takes a close look at the 'opt out' generation: her cast of primary characters have all abandoned promising careers (in art, law and academia) in favor of full-time motherhood. When their children were babies, that decision was defensible to themselves and others; 10 years on, all of these women, whose interconnected stories merge during their regular breakfasts at a Manhattan restaurant, harbor hidden doubts. Do their mundane daily routines and ever-more tenuous connections to increasingly independent children compensate for all that lost promise? Wolitzer centers her narrative on comparisons between her smart but bored modern-day New York and suburban mommies and the women of the generation preceding them, who fought for women's liberation and equality. Contemporary chapters, most of which focus on a single character in this small circle of friends, alternate with vignettes from earlier eras, placing her characters' crises in the context of the women, famous and anonymous, who came before. Wolitzer's novel offers a hopeful, if not exactly optimistic, vision of women's (and men's) capacity for reinvention and the discovery of new purpose." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review" by , "The tartly funny Wolitzer is a miniaturist who can nail a contemporary type, scene or artifact with deadeye accuracy."
"Review" by , "A perceptive, highly pleasurable novel."
"Review" by , "It's a rare novelist who can transform domestic fiction into a sustained, smart, and funny inquiry into the price of ambition, the value of work, issues of class, and the meaning of motherhood — Wolitzer is that novelist."
"Review" by , "Wolitzer...brings an amused, sympathetic but beady eye to bear on the convoluted, restless, privileged yet endlessly perplexing lives of her New York wives."
"Review" by , "Wolitzer's great ear for dialogue and for insinuating humor into seriousness make this novel a thought-provoking pleasure to read."
"Synopsis" by , For fans of Meg Wolitzer and Allegra Goodman, an intimate and provocative novel about three couples whose paths intersect in their New York City neighborhood, forcing them all to weigh the comfort of stability against the costs of change
"Synopsis" by , Two sisters recover from widowhood, divorce, and Bernie Madoff as unexpected roommates in a Manhattan apartment in the latest from Elinor Lipman, "the last urbane romantic" (Julia Glass).
"Synopsis" by ,
Two sisters recover from widowhood, divorce, and Bernie Madoff as unexpected roommates in a Manhattan apartment

Unexpectedly widowed Gwen-Laura Schmidt is still mourning her husband, Edwin, when her older sister Margot invites her to join forces as roommates in Margots luxurious Village apartment. For Margot, divorced amid scandal (hint: her husband was a fertility doctor) and then made Ponzi-poor, its a chance to shake Gwen out of her grief and help make ends meet. To further this effort she enlists a third boarder, the handsome, cupcake-baking Anthony.

As the three swap money-making schemes and timid Gwen ventures back out into the dating world, the arrival of Margots paroled ex in the efficiency apartment downstairs creates not just complications but the chance for all sorts of unexpected forgiveness. A sister story about love, loneliness, and new life in middle age, this is a cracklingly witty, deeply sweet novel from one of our finest comic writers.

“Her worldview? Her enthusiasm, her effortless wit? Just a few of the reasons we love Elinor Lipman.”-Boston Globe

"Synopsis" by ,
For fans of Meg Wolitzer and Allegra Goodman, an intimate and provocative novel about three couples whose paths intersect in their New York City neighborhood, forcing them all to weigh the comfort of stability against the costs of change. Nina is a harried young mother who spends her evenings spying on the older couple across the street through her sons Fisher-Price binoculars. She is drawn to their quiet contentment—reading on the couch, massaging each others feet—so unlike her own lonely, chaotic world of nursing and soothing and simply getting by. One night, through that same window, she spies a young couple in the throes of passion. Who are these people, and what happened to her symbol of domestic bliss?

In the coming weeks, Nina encounters the older couple, Leon and Claudia, their daughter Emma and her fiancé, and many others on the streets of her Upper West Side neighborhood, eroding the safe distance of her secret vigils. Soon anonymity gives way to different—and sometimes dangerous—forms of intimacy, and Nina and her neighbors each begin to question their own paths.

With enormous empathy and a keen observational eye, Tova Mirvis introduces a constellation of characters we all know: twenty-somethings unsure about commitments they havent yet made; thirty-somethings unsure about the ones they have; and sixty-somethings whose empty nest causes all sorts of doubt. Visible City invites us to examine those all-important forks in the road, and the conflict between desire and loyalty.

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