Memoir that reads like a novel

Maid CoverI’m reading a book, surprise, surprise. While reading, I came across a section where the narrator—who is a maid—wonders how long her client’s wife has been dead, and she sees a receipt on the fridge. Instead of throwing a date on the receipt to give readers some idea of how long the wife has been gone, the author leaves it blank, and I thought, wow, that’s a pretty interesting thing for her to not make up. And then I remembered—I was reading a memoir.

It’s because of this, primarily, that Stephanie Land’s memoir Maid is so good. It reads like a novel, as they say, but she isn’t making it up. There’s normalcy, catastrophe, struggle, and the American idea of near-achievement that makes this a tantalizing read. Land invites us into her messy life to meet her abusive baby-daddy, her sweet little girl, and her wretched life as a maid trying to make ends meet, but never quite making it. She gets static from friends and family for accepting government assistance, which she has to work for, missing hours from her job, and still can’t seem to get ahead. Land’s memoir is also interesting because she grew up middle class, and could have become a middle class college student, except for a pregnancy that she decided to go ahead with, regardless of the unwilling father, and it was single motherhood and minimum wage jobs that dragged her down into a poverty she’d never known.

The reader who did not fall into Land’s situation may feel like she dodged a miserable situation, trapped in a loop. Maid is a story about a young woman trying to make it past the criticism of friends and family, primarily on her own, in a country that does a fantastic job at helping the impoverished to just barely survive.

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