10-pages-in book review: Woman First, Family Always

by DaniGirl on February 15, 2006 · 23 comments

in 10-pages-in

I’ve been agonizing over this review.

About a month ago, I received an e-mail out of the blue, asking me if I’d be interested in receiving a book to review. I was so excited and proud to have been deemed worthy of solicitation! (Yes, I am easy to please.)

Before I get into the actual review of the book, I thought I’d share a couple of thoughts on the process. Maybe it’s because I’m a communicator by day and a blogger by night, but I’m fascinated by how bloggers have become a market worth targeting. Businesses are quickly learning that bloggers are valuable opinion leaders. We’re the ‘connectors’ in Gladwell’s Tipping Point model, the ones who build networks and share information. Bloggers have reach, and even those of us with only moderate readership have a strong voice. We’re turning traditional marketing models on their ears in many ways, and smart businesses are ready to take advantage of it.

It’s flattering to have been chosen to get a free book, but I’ve recently heard of bloggers being offered all sorts of cool stuff to review: DVDs of the Electric Company, free cleaning products (!), and even trips to Amsterdam.

And now the crux of my dilemma. I received the e-mail offer, and I said ‘Sure, I’d love a free book.’ There were no strings attached, no promises on my part to do any kind of review, let alone a good one. The publicity agent gave me some background info and a couple of jpegs, should I wish to incorporate them into my review. And less than a week later, my brand new book arrived.

The problem is, I didn’t really like it. In any other circumstance, I would have posted a scathing and sarcastic review of this book. I would have had a lot of fun mocking it. But I want to be nice, because they were nice and sent me a free book. So here we go.

I’m reading Kathryn Sansone’s Woman First, Family Always. Kathryn is an American mother of ten kids, and the book is her way of helping you live your life with the same level of success, satisfaction and happiness that she has achieved.

Kathryn was ‘discovered’ by Oprah (yes, that Oprah) when she attended a taping of Oprah’s show for her 40th birthday, and in the post-show chat had the opportunity to tell Oprah that she was staying fit even though six months pregnant with her ninth (!) child. Oprah was enamoured, so much so that she paid a visit to the Sansone family and even featured them in her monthly magazine, and shortly thereafter voilà, Kathryn became an author. She says, “[Oprah] referred to me as the role model of motherhood – quite a hefty title, but one that makes me think I might be able to affect a wider group of women with some practical advice that has helped me through the years.”

(pauses to gather thoughts and dial down sarcasm-meter)

The book is divided into three sections – Your Self, Your Marriage, and Your Family & Kids – and each section has 30 ‘reflections’ ranging in length from a couple of paragraphs to a couple of pages. They are not quite self-help, but neither are they anecdotes; they fall into a bland and colourless netherworld between the two. For example, reflections in the “Your marriage” section include:

11. Don’t Nag
12. Argue – the Right Way
17. A Little Lipstick Goes a Long Way
19. Make Your Bedroom Your Sanctuary
20. Date Nights are a Must

Similarly, the “Your Family & Kids” section includes reflections titled:

7. Be an Emotional Coach
11. Mind Their Manners
19. Teach Kids to Manage Time
And even,
22. Select the Right Paediatrician for You.

As you might have guessed, I had trouble garnering anything helpful from this book. Sansone isn’t an expert – she doesn’t even have Dr Phil’s questionable qualifications. I’d forgive her lack of credentials in a minute if she had an engaging voice or a unique style to her writing – after all, you don’t need a license to mother, and she’s had a lot of experience. And it’s not the content I have issue with; it’s all reasonable advice. It’s just that it’s so sterile it’s devoid of any traces of humanity. It’s a self-help book written by a Stepford Wife.

A book written by a mother of ten kids has a lot of potential. I mean, I come up with stuff with only two kids, and she’s got five times the source that I do. I’d’ve loved to hear how you manage laundry for 10 kids, or what mealtimes must look like, or even how you get from one place to another with that many people to corral and transport. What’s it like delivering that 10th baby – do you need a sling to hold it in place for the last trimester? How do you make sure each child gets individual attention when they outnumber the parents five to one? But, unfortunately, rather than intriguing insight into the author or her day to day life, you get some platitudes and suggestions for living well.

She seems like a nice lady, she really does. And anybody who can raise ten kids has my respect. In the end, her key point that you have to love yourself and treat yourself well is a good one. Heck, I’d say 90% of the book is filled with good advice. And I’m really flattered that her publicist sent me the free book. So go ahead, take a read of it and let me know what you think. But I just couldn’t warm up to this one.


{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

1 twinmomplusone February 15, 2006 at 8:06 pm

I generally have a hard time getting through self-help books, my mind glazes over, all those sterile one liners on how to improve yourself and your life bore me
I agree with you, a humorous version of life with 10 kids (like how do you drive them all around for activities, how do you get them all ready and out the door in the morning, would be funny and more helpful and make her feel more real

2 twinmomplusone February 15, 2006 at 8:06 pm

I generally have a hard time getting through self-help books, my mind glazes over, all those sterile one liners on how to improve yourself and your life bore me
I agree with you, a humorous version of life with 10 kids (like how do you drive them all around for activities, how do you get them all ready and out the door in the morning, would be funny and more helpful and make her feel more real

3 Phantom Scribbler February 15, 2006 at 9:00 pm

Nicely done, Dani. I appreciate how much work it is to resist the urge to get all Dorothy Parker on them.
(And I gotta admit that I’m jealous of all the cool kids who got free Electric Company DVDs! To whom do we send our traffic stats to merit a free Electric Company gig???)

4 Phantom Scribbler February 15, 2006 at 9:00 pm

Nicely done, Dani. I appreciate how much work it is to resist the urge to get all Dorothy Parker on them.
(And I gotta admit that I’m jealous of all the cool kids who got free Electric Company DVDs! To whom do we send our traffic stats to merit a free Electric Company gig???)

5 DaniGirl February 16, 2006 at 12:53 am

Hey Twinmom,now that I’ve convinced you to write a blog, my next task is to coax a book out of you — I promise I’d review you well!
Phantom, thanks! You find the most clever ways to pay a compliment! And ya, how DO we get in on those goods??

6 DaniGirl February 16, 2006 at 12:53 am

Hey Twinmom,now that I’ve convinced you to write a blog, my next task is to coax a book out of you — I promise I’d review you well!
Phantom, thanks! You find the most clever ways to pay a compliment! And ya, how DO we get in on those goods??

7 kris February 16, 2006 at 3:12 am

“A Little Lipstick Goes a Long Way” Ewwwwwww. How f***ing antedeluvian is that? I wouldn’t have been able to keep reading after seeing that. Hope your next free book is a better read–you know, as a librarian, I guess it’s my professional responsibility to argue that reading anything is better than not reading at all–but I’m not always sure about that…

8 kris February 16, 2006 at 3:12 am

“A Little Lipstick Goes a Long Way” Ewwwwwww. How f***ing antedeluvian is that? I wouldn’t have been able to keep reading after seeing that. Hope your next free book is a better read–you know, as a librarian, I guess it’s my professional responsibility to argue that reading anything is better than not reading at all–but I’m not always sure about that…

9 Ann D February 16, 2006 at 5:32 pm

I really like the sling bit. Someone really must use that in a prenatal workout book title — THE ANTI-SLING THING: Keep Your Perineal Muscles Strong through Birth and Beyond .
Ann

10 Ann D February 16, 2006 at 5:32 pm

I really like the sling bit. Someone really must use that in a prenatal workout book title — THE ANTI-SLING THING: Keep Your Perineal Muscles Strong through Birth and Beyond .
Ann

11 Elizabeth February 17, 2006 at 2:26 am

I agree that the free stuff does create a bit of a quandry. I was so thrilled the first time I was offered a free book, and then it turned out to be a dog. I reviewed it honestly, but with trepedation:
http://www.halfchangedworld.com/2005/06/tbr_making_it_u.html
I figured that since the most damning part of the review was a quote from the first page, they didn’t have a lot of basis to complain.
I don’t know how I qualifed for the Electric Company. I was pretty psyched.

12 Elizabeth February 17, 2006 at 2:26 am

I agree that the free stuff does create a bit of a quandry. I was so thrilled the first time I was offered a free book, and then it turned out to be a dog. I reviewed it honestly, but with trepedation:
http://www.halfchangedworld.com/2005/06/tbr_making_it_u.html
I figured that since the most damning part of the review was a quote from the first page, they didn’t have a lot of basis to complain.
I don’t know how I qualifed for the Electric Company. I was pretty psyched.

13 James February 17, 2006 at 5:44 pm

They asked your opinion and you gave it. Nicely handled. And congrats on being noticed as a shaper of opinion. By the way, how does a person put out the word that he’d be interested in reviewing world cruises?

14 James February 17, 2006 at 5:44 pm

They asked your opinion and you gave it. Nicely handled. And congrats on being noticed as a shaper of opinion. By the way, how does a person put out the word that he’d be interested in reviewing world cruises?

15 Tina February 22, 2006 at 10:35 pm

I got the same email, did the same book review, had the same opinion. I really wanted to like the book and really wanted to write something nice but I just couldn’t recommend it. I’m waiting for my trip to Amsterdam. I’m sure I could recommend Amsterdam

16 Tina February 22, 2006 at 10:35 pm

I got the same email, did the same book review, had the same opinion. I really wanted to like the book and really wanted to write something nice but I just couldn’t recommend it. I’m waiting for my trip to Amsterdam. I’m sure I could recommend Amsterdam

17 Anonymous September 17, 2006 at 9:28 pm

Dani: Caroline here from the IVF boards. Okay, so I never ever review anything but I got this book hoping for good things and was SO dissapointed and angry at the giant rip off job and Oprah endorsement. I think you nailed it when you said it was written by a Stepford wife. Here is my review, which I posted on Amazon. Keep in mind that I have NEVER EVER EVER reviewed anythin on Amazon. I was compelled to by how affected I was by this “work”. Here is what I wrote:
Good for laughs…..
This is a laugh out loud book. I know the author meant well, but this book reads like one gigantic joke. Nuggets such as: ‘At the time I was coaching for two kids’ sports teams, pregnant with my eight child, and, of course, managing the lives and home of the rest of the family….I started to notice signs that all was not well: I was being short and impatient’ Yes, well I understand why she may be a tad bit cranky. MOST normal women would be homicidal in that state.
The author does come across as well meaning, and she is obviously a high achiever but the advice is simplistic, unrealistic and impractical. As an example, she suggests achieving a ‘tidy house’ by ‘finding a place for everything.’ I imagine most women will react by smacking their heads with the book and saying ‘WOW! Why didn’t I think of this?! I am so glad I payed $17 for this book. I am going to take the advice RIGHT THIS INSTANT and put this book in a very SPECIAL place: ..the garbage’)
Despite the fact the author is married to a very wealthy man, she never mentions needing or relying on household help. To hear her tell it, she is able to manage ten children and all their demands and still find time for sex and workouts. With ten children, I believe her about the sex and she sure looks skinny enough to be the fitness nut she claims to be. What I don’t understand is just where these children are when she is finding all this time for herself. I imagine they are too busy organizing the neighborhood children in an effort to provide aid to the poor while simultaneously learning how to speak Swahili. But I digress…
Given the fact she manages to coach, be on boards of non-profits (She advises never to serve on a board more than 5 years!) and work out daily, I am thinking she is relying on some full time nannying…. and possibly some happy drugs. Or at least a cocktail or two. Now that would make the book more interesting!
Book would have been more credible had she owned up to her shortcuts! But I still recommend it! Do a friend a favor and buy her this book. You will both have a great laugh…

18 Anonymous September 17, 2006 at 9:28 pm

Dani: Caroline here from the IVF boards. Okay, so I never ever review anything but I got this book hoping for good things and was SO dissapointed and angry at the giant rip off job and Oprah endorsement. I think you nailed it when you said it was written by a Stepford wife. Here is my review, which I posted on Amazon. Keep in mind that I have NEVER EVER EVER reviewed anythin on Amazon. I was compelled to by how affected I was by this “work”. Here is what I wrote:
Good for laughs…..
This is a laugh out loud book. I know the author meant well, but this book reads like one gigantic joke. Nuggets such as: ‘At the time I was coaching for two kids’ sports teams, pregnant with my eight child, and, of course, managing the lives and home of the rest of the family….I started to notice signs that all was not well: I was being short and impatient’ Yes, well I understand why she may be a tad bit cranky. MOST normal women would be homicidal in that state.
The author does come across as well meaning, and she is obviously a high achiever but the advice is simplistic, unrealistic and impractical. As an example, she suggests achieving a ‘tidy house’ by ‘finding a place for everything.’ I imagine most women will react by smacking their heads with the book and saying ‘WOW! Why didn’t I think of this?! I am so glad I payed $17 for this book. I am going to take the advice RIGHT THIS INSTANT and put this book in a very SPECIAL place: ..the garbage’)
Despite the fact the author is married to a very wealthy man, she never mentions needing or relying on household help. To hear her tell it, she is able to manage ten children and all their demands and still find time for sex and workouts. With ten children, I believe her about the sex and she sure looks skinny enough to be the fitness nut she claims to be. What I don’t understand is just where these children are when she is finding all this time for herself. I imagine they are too busy organizing the neighborhood children in an effort to provide aid to the poor while simultaneously learning how to speak Swahili. But I digress…
Given the fact she manages to coach, be on boards of non-profits (She advises never to serve on a board more than 5 years!) and work out daily, I am thinking she is relying on some full time nannying…. and possibly some happy drugs. Or at least a cocktail or two. Now that would make the book more interesting!
Book would have been more credible had she owned up to her shortcuts! But I still recommend it! Do a friend a favor and buy her this book. You will both have a great laugh…

19 Anonymous2 March 26, 2007 at 8:32 am

I’ve been reading up a little on this book, as I’ve been READING IT, and I guess I have to say I was a little stunned by your review, altho’ appreciative that you were so nice!
I’ll be the first to say that you gotta take in EVERYTHING with a grain of salt (or sometimes 2, or even 10), so I’m not going to tell you that I agree with, or will live by, everything in this book, but I thought I was into some good reading here! Ok, it’s nothing like Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, which is an excellent and very helpful book, if you can get through it in, say, 100 sittings… (try the CD–it’s faster!) But still, as a child of a mother with 17 (!!!) kids, I am enjoying it. Sure some of it seems a little far-fetched, and it’s OBVIOUS the woman has absolutely ZERO financial worries, but hey—she’s got 10 kids and she’s HAPPY! THAT’s gotta be worth something. Who wants to hear ANYTHING from someone (whether they have kids or not) who’s UNHAPPY???
No, I wouldn’t qualify her as a Dr Laura equiv. or anything like that, but still, I’m just surprised that your dislike of the book was SO STRONG! So seriously, do you think I’m nuts that I’m actually enjoying reading it, and finding helpful information in it?????
PS–I’ve never read any helpful article/book that explains how to successfully handle laundry (or anything) with any number of kids, period! Do you have one you can direct me to?? All the articles/tips I read about how to clean you home in 19 minutes, etc, etc, etc…yeah right! Do THEY have kids??? I can’t even clean my BATHROOM in 19 minutes!
PPS–Do you know of a blog out there somewhere, since it sounds like you’re into blogging, that any mom is welcome to, to chat with other moms about day-to-day things, get advice, etc?? I’d be interested. Plus, this is fun!
PPPS–I mean absolutely NO OFFENSE in anything I’ve written, so I hope you haven’t taken any!

20 Anonymous2 March 26, 2007 at 8:32 am

I’ve been reading up a little on this book, as I’ve been READING IT, and I guess I have to say I was a little stunned by your review, altho’ appreciative that you were so nice!
I’ll be the first to say that you gotta take in EVERYTHING with a grain of salt (or sometimes 2, or even 10), so I’m not going to tell you that I agree with, or will live by, everything in this book, but I thought I was into some good reading here! Ok, it’s nothing like Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, which is an excellent and very helpful book, if you can get through it in, say, 100 sittings… (try the CD–it’s faster!) But still, as a child of a mother with 17 (!!!) kids, I am enjoying it. Sure some of it seems a little far-fetched, and it’s OBVIOUS the woman has absolutely ZERO financial worries, but hey—she’s got 10 kids and she’s HAPPY! THAT’s gotta be worth something. Who wants to hear ANYTHING from someone (whether they have kids or not) who’s UNHAPPY???
No, I wouldn’t qualify her as a Dr Laura equiv. or anything like that, but still, I’m just surprised that your dislike of the book was SO STRONG! So seriously, do you think I’m nuts that I’m actually enjoying reading it, and finding helpful information in it?????
PS–I’ve never read any helpful article/book that explains how to successfully handle laundry (or anything) with any number of kids, period! Do you have one you can direct me to?? All the articles/tips I read about how to clean you home in 19 minutes, etc, etc, etc…yeah right! Do THEY have kids??? I can’t even clean my BATHROOM in 19 minutes!
PPS–Do you know of a blog out there somewhere, since it sounds like you’re into blogging, that any mom is welcome to, to chat with other moms about day-to-day things, get advice, etc?? I’d be interested. Plus, this is fun!
PPPS–I mean absolutely NO OFFENSE in anything I’ve written, so I hope you haven’t taken any!

21 DaniGirl March 26, 2007 at 1:29 pm

Hi Anonymous,
17 kids – wow! Hey, if you liked Sansone’s book and found helpful stuff in it for you, that’s great.
I wanted to say that if you are looking for friendly mom blogs where you can chat, just start clicking some of the links in the big list of blogs in the sidebar. You’ll find all kinds of different perspectives on parenting and life in general, and I don’t know many bloggers who don’t like to chat. Don’t be shy about commenting, but I would suggest you choose a name, even if it’s a pseudonym, so you can have an online identity. Blogging is fun, you’re right!
No offense taken, by the way. Disagreement is part of the fun of discussion, and there’s lots and lots of conversations going on around here.
If you have questions about blogging, I’d be happy to answer them for you through the comment box, or you can e-mail me at danicanada (at) gmail (dot) com.

22 DaniGirl March 26, 2007 at 1:29 pm

Hi Anonymous,
17 kids – wow! Hey, if you liked Sansone’s book and found helpful stuff in it for you, that’s great.
I wanted to say that if you are looking for friendly mom blogs where you can chat, just start clicking some of the links in the big list of blogs in the sidebar. You’ll find all kinds of different perspectives on parenting and life in general, and I don’t know many bloggers who don’t like to chat. Don’t be shy about commenting, but I would suggest you choose a name, even if it’s a pseudonym, so you can have an online identity. Blogging is fun, you’re right!
No offense taken, by the way. Disagreement is part of the fun of discussion, and there’s lots and lots of conversations going on around here.
If you have questions about blogging, I’d be happy to answer them for you through the comment box, or you can e-mail me at danicanada (at) gmail (dot) com.

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