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Review: CITY MOUSE by Stacey Lender

"State budget cuts had put a serious crater in my perfect express schedule and now if I missed the 5:38 the next three trains were all locals, and my as-advertised less-than-an-hour commute was now turning out to be more like an hour and twenty. Every day around 5:15 I found myself debating whether or not I could speed through the copy in the eight minutes I had remaining before I would miss that rain, copy I knew I should proofread at least one more time before passing it along to the art department if the ad had a chance of going live online that night. More often than not I went with it as is, with a note to call me if they had any questions, and then I'd run down the subway stairs crossing my fingers an A or C would be waiting on the tracks with its doors sliding open so I wouldn't miss my golden 5:38, the only train that would get me home for mommy time."

CITY MOUSE by Stacey Lender is a story so many people who live and work in NYC will relate to. New York is EXPENSIVE. You get very little, yet pay so much. Eventually, everyone whose livlihood is in NYC must decide: stay or commute? The decision becomes even harder once you have a family; those one-bedroom apartments can feel overflowing fast.

Jessica and Aaron are happily married and living their lives in NYC, but now they have two children and are running out of space. They haven't been able to find a bigger apartment in their price-range, and a lot of their friends have moved to places like Long Island and Westchester, even to New Jersey and Connecticut. Places within an hour or two of the city. Jessica wants nothing more than to stay in the city and find her dream residence. Lately, Aaron has begun coveting a home with a yard--sharing Central Park's lawn with everyone else is no longer good enough. But when the family finally makes the choice to move, they encounter a whole new set of problems. Long commutes mean less family time. The local Moms turn everything into a popularity contest: Who has the best, most expensive grill? The best nanny? The best spouse? Can Jessica and Aaron adapt and fall into the rhythm of their new life?

A really fun aspect of the book is the fact that Jessica has a really awesome job: She's an advertising executive for Broadway musicals. There's even a really cool cameo revolving around Hamilton and uncovered documents that feels very timely and fresh, making the novel feel like it's happening today. I love that Jessica wasn't pushed out of her job once she became a mother. She was still able to move up at work. Even when she moves out of the city, she never considers quitting or being a stay-at-home mom like her neighbor. I really like this aspect of the book, not just because it's Broadway-related, but because women too often see their careers deflate once they become mothers. They're too often asked to step down or given fewer tasks. Jessica maintains her powerful position and continues to be a valuable member of her team at work.

The book focuses a lot on the struggle of learning to fit in all over again. Moving as an adult can be just as terrifying as when you're a child. As adults, we still occasionally have childhood dreams of standing out oddly in school and being laughed at because the embarrassment and horror is so deeply ingrained in us. That terror comes back when we're now the new mom/dad at school. Playdates, becoming friends with other moms, joining the mommy "inner circle" and staying on everyone's good side. Growing up doesn't mean outgrowing the desire to fit in. Jessica feels pressure in the suburbs that she never did in the city. Some days she loves it; others, she despises it.

Everyone has a different experience when they move. For some, it's perfect and exhilarating. For others, its mundane and same old/same old. For a few, it's harmful and reduces their quality of life. CITY MOUSE is fast-paced and will have readers anxious to find out whether or not Jessica and Aaron made the right decision for their family as they fall into their new lifestyle.

CITY MOUSE by Stacey Lender was first published on June 6, 2017 by Kaylie Jones Books / Akashic Books.

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