Review of “Is That the Shirt You’re Wearing???” by Kristen Hansen Brakeman

Ten weeks remain. It’s 9:00AM and my captors are still sleeping.

Wait– is this a spy thriller to be read on the beach this summer? No, it’s the opening to Kristen Brakeman’s funny exploration of family life.

I’ve been reading Kristen Brakeman’s comic essays on motherhood and life for several years now, so I was honored when she asked me to review her new book. She’s published many satirical articles and essays in such media outlets as the Huffington Post and The New York Times, so I expected her new book, Is that The Shirt You’re Wearing? to be funny and snarky. She calls this book “A memoir in Essays” and has included many of the essays I’ve read over the years. What I didn’t expect was the heartbreaking poignancy of the personal stories she weaves in between those essays. These stories are presented as journal entries spanning two tumultuous years of her life.

Brakeman has a sarcastic voice that is a pleasure to read. Her observations on being a parent are so spot–on,  I thought she may be eavesdropping on some of my interactions with my own family. Her parenting misadventures include inadvertently teaching her youngest daughter to swear and reluctantly hosting a pre-teen sleepover party. She even lies to her children about the family vacation plans–telling them they’ll be staying in a yurt in the woods– because that will make their actual trip to a lakeside cabin in northern California seemed luxurious.

Mothers everywhere can recognize themselves in Brakeman’s stories. Who hasn’t pulled a fifteen-year-old dressy outfit from the back of the closet, convinced it will still fit? Brakeman’s self-deprecating humor shines whether she’s describing a home hair dye disaster or the horrifying discovery of an unwanted chin hair.

In between these hilarious moments, Brakeman chronicles the trials and frustrations of everyday life. There’s never enough money or time, children and husbands have health challenges, and family pets are less than adorable at times. She explores the difficulty of dealing with an aging parent, an experience many of us have faced.  But throughout the book, Brakeman’s hilarious observations had me laughing out loud.

Is That the Shirt You’re Wearing is a witty reminder that being a wife, mother, and daughter is a universal experience that’s best accompanied with laughter, and perhaps a glass of wine.

You can find Kristen’s book in Barnes & Noble and on Amazon and you can visit her website.

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