Imagine you finally have it all figured out: you're married to the love of your life, you're living in your dream home, and you're expecting your first child. Now, imagine you wake up a month later to find it all has all burned down around you, and you're left with nothing but the pain, the memories, and a picture of your dead son. It seems like an impossible litany of tragedies for one person to overcome, but in her frank and unflinchingly sincere memoir, The Rules Do Not Apply, writer Ariel Levy seeks to prove the resilience of the female spirit in the face of a reality where no one can have it all.
If you're familiar with Ariel Levy's work, that you already know the seeds of her story. In her 2013 essay for The New Yorker titled "Thanksgiving in Mongolia," Levy recounts the heartbreaking tale of losing her son after going into premature labor while on assignment in East Asia. That devastating piece of personal writing, which was highly praised and went on to help the author win a National Magazine Award, became the anchor for Levy's newest book,The Rules Do Not Apply.
Unlike her previous book Female Chauvinist Pigs, which was a cultural critique of women's sexual objectification and and exploration of its relationship to female empowerment, Levy's memoir draws from the author's personal experiences and packs a much harder emotional punch. Starting with her childhood growing up in Larchmont, New York and ending with her devastating loss in Mongolia, The Rules Do Not Apply goes everywhere else in between: to Levy's twenties, where she caught her big break at New York magazine, had a handful of less-than magical relationships, and got caught up in an affair that would lead to marriage; to her early thirties, where she found herself caught between the desire to be free and adventurous and the pull of motherhood and stability; and finally, to the prelude of her ultimate tragedy, the volatile period of Levy's life where she was battling (and losing to) her wife's alcohol addiction and her own infidelities, until the magical moment where she finds out she is pregnant.
And although we know from the beginning of the book how that story ends, it's how Levy get there, and where she chooses to go from there, that makes The Rules Do Not Applya truly remarkable read.
A gut-wrenching, emotionally charged work of soul-baring writing in the spirit of Joan Didion, Helen Macdonald, and Elizabeth Gilbert, The Rules Do Not Apply is a must read for women. Here's why: