The Overdue Life of Amy Byler tells the story of a librarian in charge of raising her two kids, ages 12 and 15, after her husband John suddenly up and left their family 3 years prior to move to Hong Kong. In that period, Amy dedicated her existence to being the best mother she could be, in addition to working hard to support her family on a single income, while her husband created a new life for himself. Out of the blue, John shows up and wants to be a father to his kids again. Amy is presented with an opportunity to stay with her friend Talia, who runs a women’s magazine, in NYC and ends up being the inspiration for a big summer feature. Amy spends the summer getting a makeover, hitting the gym, dating and finding herself (and also taking care of herself, putting her needs first for once!). At the end of the trip, she finds herself grappling with the feeling that she was a bad mother, that she was selfish to take the time for herself, and that her kids are going to like their father more than her because of all the fun they’re having.
I loved this book because it was so realistic. A single mother putting her needs first and feeling guilty for that is a feeling that resonates with many other mothers. The novel tackles issues of the modern woman/mother with witty humor and candor with clear feminist ideals. It’s not about being the perfect mother or trying to be the perfect wife at the sacrifice of your interests, personal needs and independence. It’s about giving it your all as a mother but making sure you’re dedicating just as much of an effort to yourself. Amy Byler learns that motherhood is not the only way she can define herself. She’s a librarian taking the literary world by storm with her innovative ideas. It’s a woman who can feel attractive and go on dates. It’s a woman who takes care of her health and wellness. The Overdue Life of Amy Byler is one of the best women’s fiction novels I have read.