Mitzi Bytes, Just the Book I needed
I've been looking forward to reading Kerry Clare's Mitzi Bytes ever since I heard it was being published. I've been avoiding reading reviews as one does with a book one has been anticipating, but there has been a huge buzz about this book, and I can tell you, it's richly deserved. I felt like this was the perfect book for me not only because I've been blogging for, yah, forever, and reading blogs since Dooce was the big thing (glad to know it's been resurrected), but because I barely survived that fraught and treacherous time of motherhood she writes about. The school-drop offs, the weird fundraising, navigating the coffee scene, the playdates, the politics, the networking. I'll stop myself there....
Back in the day, I remember thinking that the only response to the madness of that whole scene would be to write about it. And I did, actually, but in a strange, experimental format that publishers weren't interested in, which is okay, really, and I did publish it myself for that all important feeling of closure. (Hive, is the title if you're interested).
I took Mitzi with me on our recent trip and read it on the plane and it was PERFECT plane reading material. Just the book I needed, as it turns out. It's smart, a page-turner, and the voice grabs you immediately. The premise is terrific: Mitzi Bytes is the anonymous online persona of Sarah Lundy. As Mitzi, Sarah writes about her divorce and return to the dating scene in a confessional and amusing style that is wildly popular. When her life changes – she marries and has children – she continues blogging, and documents the stories of all the moms at the school pick-up. One of them finds her out and starts sending her gut-sticking anonymous and threatening notes. All through this, Sarah navigates her relationship, various friendships, the needs of her family and extended family, and her secret blogging life. On the surface the book is a fun, super-readable whodunnit kind of story, but it's also beautifully insightful about that particular slice of motherhood and community.
Reading it, I couldn't help but think of that famous piece of advice Jane Austen gave to her niece Anna:
"You are now collecting your people delightfully, getting them exactly into such a spot as is the delight of my life. Three or four families in a country village is the very thing to work on, and I hope you will do a great deal more, and make full use of them while they are so very favorably arranged."
Mitzi Bytes is a modern day version of this. It also raises so many questions pertinent to life right now, at least it does for me. How do we tell our story especially when it intersects with the stories of others? What is truth? And how ruthless can we be when telling our stories? How do we reconcile our online presence with our IRL one? For those who blog, the questions might be – what is our responsibility to our readership? and to those we end up writing about? to ourselves? This book got me thinking about why we blog (though these are all just sort of tangents one goes on) and how this is different from writing a book. There is something quite secretive about writing a book, whereas a blog is quite obviously different. It's so immediate. I can write something, post it, and have a comment within 5 minutes.
Reading, I was also reminded of the following words by Anne Lamott:
"You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better."
This was truly one of the most enjoyable books I've read in ages. It would be perfect for a book club discussion, and it's one I'll be recommending to friends and to people at the library.
Small disclaimer: when my book Rumi and the Red Handbag came out and Kerry wrote about it on her blog, Pickle Me This. I'm not sure I even have to mention this, and I'm really only doing it to draw attention to my own book, lol. She also came to the reading I did for the book in Toronto, which is just to say, she's a very nice person in addition to being a marvellous writer. And that's a good thing, yes?