Why We Can't Sleep

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 10 Jan 2020

Member Reviews

A hit in some ways, a miss in others for me.

I am technically a Gen-Xer, after all, and have been curious about what it’s like for other people—what it’s like, hitting your forties? Are their experiences the same as mine? Am I even experiencing the frightful middle-life crisis, or not yet, and how can I tell? The author worked with her own experiences, as well as those of friends, and from research, too, so the result was a good mix, I think, of personal plus scientific/psychological. And it is definitely interesting to see all these experiences, some very close to each other, others pretty varied, all the more since a lot of women I know then to bag it all and have less visibility when it comes to reaching middle-age.

That said, it was also a miss, because a lot of the aforementioned also didn’t resonate with me. (Mostly it’s about cisgender, middle/upper class women.) I identify as agender and aro-ace; I’m not nor do I want to be in a romantic relationship; I don’t have nor do I want children; my background and career path place me much more among millennials than xennials; I never felt the pressure of “having it all” (no family to take care of), I don’t particularly feel “invisible” (I probably am, but I don’t feel it since I’m not interested in romantic love, and I’m enough of a nerd, in a branch where this is desirable, for people to notice me regardless). So, this was all interesting, but in a distanced way. I didn’t relate that much. Is it because I haven’t reached that point yet? Or because my path is different enough that my experience will never be so close to what’s most often depicted here?

I guess I did enjoy this book, although it didn’t particularly “speak” to me. I’d recommend it only to someone who matches that demographic and is interested in a mirror—“I’m not alone and this comforts me”.

P.S. It's not about how to cure insomnia.
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No Zzzzzz’s: Why We Can’t Sleep

“You come to this place, midlife. You don’t know how you got here, but suddenly you’re staring fifty in the face. When you turn and look back down the years, you glimpse the ghosts of other lives you might have led. All your houses are haunted by the person you might have been.” Hilary Mantel, Giving Up the Ghost

At times clunky with stats about Generation X, and full of surprisingly insulting, depressing, or enlightening quotes from articles (“Think pieces about Generation X teem with lists of qualities we supposedly display. For example: ‘Superficial, easily distracted, rootless, inscrutable, self-centered, unfocused, pathetic.’ Or: ‘With caution–and on little cat feet–wary, worn before wear, fearful, and suspicious.’”) writer/journalist Ada Calhoun’s Why We Can’t Sleep: Women’s New Midlife Crisis is most interesting when she talks directly with women facing midlife and a life they may not recognize as their own or how the hell they got there. 

Wendy Ward
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If you're a GenX woman and feel stuck, depressed, confused, overwhelmed... you are not alone! Read this book and it will all make a lot more sense.
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Ada Calhoun’s Why We Can’t Sleep is based off of an intriguing concept: Gen X women were lead to believe that they could “have it all” (career, family, social life) and are now coming to terms in their middle age that they feel restless or unsatisfied with some of the biggest areas of their lives due to making these decisions under intense societal pressure of perfectionism, which Calhoun claims other generations of women have not endured to the same extent.

Although I am not a Gen Xer, I felt like this book may be interesting from a social perspective of comparing a different generation of women to my own. While many points made throughout the book were valid and interesting to think about, I believe the message would have been stronger as either a long-form essay *or* told through the perspective of very specific case studies (a la Three Women) versus a large and vague smattering of female voices.

Also, maybe I’m just a self-involved millennial, but I would have loved if Calhoun had explored the solidarity in the struggles of women of all generations through the lens of her own, as opposed to the rather whiny tone that Gen X women have had it “the worst”(because it’s a competition?)
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I received a digital copy from netgalley and the publishers.

I loved this book! As a Gen-X female, I felt like this was telling my story. The exception is that my parents were Depression Era kids, not boomers, but the results are the same lol.

I’m not a fan of self-help books, and let me say this is definitely not one of those. Instead, this is more along the lines of “This is why you do what you do, or how you act, and it’s ok. You aren’t alone, and you definitely aren’t strange or F@#$& up.” Well, no more than anyone else. I did find one point interesting-our generation made the Millennials the way they are and everything we complain about, we are responsible for. Our generation were helicopter parents and gave ribbons to everyone because our parents didn’t love us enough or tell us they loved us enough, so we over compensated. Well are also a smaller group than both the Millennials and the Boomers and are taking care of both. Think about that ladies. So while we are working our full time jobs, we are still taking care of our kids and taking care of our aging parents. Who’s going to take care of us? 

Ultimately, this helped affirm what I’ve been feeling and thinking. I have already recommended this to my girlfriends!

Thank you again to Grove Atlantic and Grove Press and Ms Calhoun fir the opportunity to read this ARC.
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I  was born between Generation X and Millennials, so I identify with aspects of both generations. I turn 40 this year and find myself reflecting on choices throughout my life, even experiencing bursts of what could be called midlife crises. 

Why We Can't Sleep: Women's New Midlife Crisis was a timely read for me. Ada Calhoun frames the book in distinctive chapters, touching on how various areas of life contribute to how we may be feeling about this stage of life, including marriage (and singleness), divorce, perimenopause, caregiving, and careers.

One may feel that, if you're in this uncertain, uneasy time of life, a book articulating all these issues might be a tough read and one to be avoided if you're in this season. However, I found it affirming. It acknowledges that there are legitimate reasons life can feel tough right now, that the mental loads women carry, in addition to caregiving and money decisions and changes in health all are valid reasons that help explain the stress we find ourselves experiencing. I catch myself recalling her insights and recommending it to friends.

(I received a digital ARC from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.)
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This is an all-too current read for me as I am one of the late Generation X women to enter middle age, and deal with every soul crushing issue described here. And this book really does help explain why, and offer some hope for moving forward. Much of the book felt familiar and reified my own personal anxieties, but as the author notes just knowing you aren’t going through it alone helps. Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC in exchange for this unbiased review.
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I have no other words for this book other than a deeply compassionate look at  America's middle-aged women and their struggles with money, relationships, work, and existential despair.  As Gen-Xers hit middle age, the generation that was referred to as "slackers" is still overlooked by the Baby Boomers and now sandwiched in between Millennials. As "X" usually signifies something undetermined, that same sense of lack of identity is echoed in this book. Filled with a wonderful mash-up of women across all social and demographic groups, I felt like Calhoun rounded up all the woman I need to become friends with into one book. 
I didn't expect to enjoy this book as much as I did. It's certainly not a how-to thrive in midlife or an objective commentary. Instead, it's a reason for hope and excitement and validation of everything that many Gen-X women are feeling right now. 
Calhoun's writing is something I will return to again and again over the years to come. This is one of the very few books I'm planning on leaving marginalia in: notes to myself as I pass through the stages mentioned by other women in this book.
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This book tells an all-too-true story of why Gen X women (especially white, middle-class women) feel overwhelmed, depressed, and anxious. It's a fairly depressing read, and I wish that she had taken race and ethnicity more fully into account, but it certainly resonates for many readers.
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I was born in late 80's, so I am a Millennial!
And whaterver topics Ada Calhoun broached in this book, also relate to Millennials. Not only Gex X ladies. I loved every inch of it. It practically sang to me which I had not expected at all. But it was like a knowledge passed on to me that every woman will feel this in her life time no matter where is she born. That made me feel less alone perhaps. But a really astounding read.

Thanks to NetGalley for ARC in exchange of honest review.
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No wonder I can't sleep! Too much noise to filter! This is a really good read about the stress and burdens on women ages 40-60. It's well researched, easy to follow, makes perfect sense. This book provides the reader with insight regarding the need to 'keep up' and gives permission to not do so. Thank you, Net Galley, for the opportunity to read in exchange for an honest review. 4 Stars
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In preparing to write this review I made some notes, three pages of notes. It got out of hand. The main take away in my note taking was how much I saw myself in the book, and how much I did not. Yes, I’m a woman of Generation X and do have trouble sleeping sometimes. This book is not about how to find solutions to that problem. Instead it gives us many reasons why mid-life women of GenX are having difficulties. There’s a lot of comparison to other generations: previous one, Boomers as parents, and the kids, as Millennials. We also have some comparisons on how male mid-life crises differ from women.

For the most part, I did enjoy reading the book, as it brought up reasons why this generation did things as they have so far, with parenting, or choosing not to have kids. The delays in marriage and how our prospects, in general, were the first to be expected to be worse than the parents. Some topics seemed to have never been mentioned before (or at least in mainstream consciousness). Yet this book doesn’t cover everything for all women born in the years of roughly 1967-1980. One of the most glaring to me was this book is mostly about middle class women, especially those who graduated college. There are a few nods to people outside that area, but not much.

The last chapter was one that tried to sum up and find personal solutions. I think for the author, she did find ways to cope better and enjoy life more. Hopefully the book will help other women of this era, and maybe a few outside of the targeted demographic.
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I've finally finished this book, which is basically a pity dump for upper middle-class 40-something, privileged white women. Wow, what a lot of navel gazing and self absorption.

The author finished writing this book as she turned 42, which I don't even consider midlife (I guess I'm an optimist but I'm aiming higher than 84). I have a vivid memory of when I was 42. This memory rarely leaves me. I was sitting in an empty lobby in a children's hospital with my 6 month-old baby in my arms. Two janitors went by pushing garbage cans. Over the loudspeaker, a woman said that business hours were over and recited a prayer that echoed through the emptied space. Through two double doors, surgeons were performing emergency surgery on my 13 year-old oldest child's jawline where sepsis had set in following surgery two weeks earlier. Techs had been unable to find her veins for hours to get painkillers into her to try to control her incredible pain, and she'd spent a feverish night in our tiny hometown hospital the night before where morphine didn't make a dent in her pain and a nurse angrily told her "crying like that isn't going to make it any better." We'd rushed her to her oncologist an hour and a half away in the morning, who had recommended emergency surgery. Only days before, we'd found out that the large lump that the doctors had dismissed as a cyst was cancer, but it wasn't even the most dangerous medical reality because infection was spreading into her bloodstream and it could quickly turn fatal. I had called my best friend in Nebraska the night before and said that I didn't even know how to feel when the fact that my child had cancer was not even the scariest thing we were dealing with. The worry during those days was such an intense, visceral pain that it made it hard to breathe, much less sleep. She beat the cancer and the sepsis but the years that followed led to even more medical emergencies and more surgeries. At only 21 now, our oldest child has had three surgeries above the neck for three separate medical issues, which doesn't even make a dent in the dozen other medical crises that have arisen.

That keeps me awake at night.

Worrying about whether my kids will even have a livable planet when they are my age keeps me up at night. Seriously, the odds are against our children making it to middle age, according to an awful lot of scientists. I was a little baffled by Calhoun's apparent complete lack of worry for her child or for younger generations.

The deaths of an endless stream of good friends and family members keeps me up at night. I've lost my mother, father, aunts, grandparents and every relative but a distant mean aunt and a very nice cousin and his kids who live far away. Friend after friend has died, yet another last week in a pretty gobsmackingly tragic way (and my poor 21 year old was there when it happened).

Grief keeps me up at night. Deep, profound worry about my kids keeps me up at night. To be honest, the election of Donald Trump and all that he did to vulnerable people caused me a fair number of sleepless nights. And yeah, hot flashes do a bit of that too. But mostly deep and profound worry about others keeps me up at night.

But despite all that, I am a pretty happy and content person. I really like my life. It would be great if loved ones would stop dying and terrible things didn't keep me up at night with worry, but it's not about me. Good grief. It's other people that keep me from sleeping at 3 a.m., not the stuff in this book.

Some of Calhoun's points are valid in terms of caring for elderly parents and regrets, but for the most part she is so incredibly entitled and self absorbed that I hate-read this book.

I know how lucky I am. Women my age are terrified of being deported or of losing their children, are caring for kids with terminal illnesses, are buried in debt and facing homelessness, and living with diseases that fill their lives with pain and challenges...

This book highlights how incredibly lucky many modern (American, white, middle class) women are, not unlucky. The irony is that only those on the outside will ever see that.

I read a digital ARC of this book for the purpose of review.
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In WHY WE CAN'T SLEEP, Ada Calhoun shares the stories of women at mid-life, the reckonings and realizations and resolutions that are too often unacknowledged or dismissed. While I am not in the particular cohort of women facing mid-life that she focuses upon, every single point rings true. I delighted in the stories, the individuals she encountered, and the conclusions she reached as a result of her journey into unseen, unexplored, rich, wild territory.
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When the "Who is Generation X?" type stories came out in the 1990s, I thought I was one of them, both in personality and by virtue of being born in 1983. Then suddenly, the idea of Generation Y emerged. Then early-80s babies were folded in with Millennials because of graduating in the 2000s. Then someone came up with the awful-looking moniker Xennial to describe being sandwiched between the already sandwiched GenXers and the prized Millennials. Personally, I've always felt closer to Generation X, but some folks bristle at anyone born post-1980 trying to identify with them. So I requested a review copy of this book nervously, as if it might be revoked. But the author immediately comforted me with these words:
"Whether to identify as Gen X is a decision every woman must make for herself, but I believe that if, like me, you were a kid in the Reagan years, had a Koosh ball, or know what sound a dial-up modem makes, you count."
And that's the kind of soothing inclusiveness that permeates the book. 

A sleep study guide it is not, but there are plenty of those out there. This is a reckoning with identity, expectations, and society. One of my favorite lines: :The world ignores middle-aged women at its peril."

Thanks to the publishers and NetGalley for a digital ARC.
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Truth be told, I didn’t expect this book to resonate as much as it did. The more I read, the more I realized that I was digging myself deeper into a midlife crisis. It was a little bit of a relief to come to that realization. This book is a useful tool, and reading it felt like I was surrounded by friends, and so much love.
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Why We Can’t Sleep by Ada Calhoun
Book Review by Dawn Thomas

Publisher: Grove Atlantic / Grove Press
Release Date: January 7, 2020

Non-Fiction, Women’s Midlife-Crisis, Generation X

I looked at this book for a while before deciding to read it. I should have read it sooner. The author interviewed over 200 women born within 1964-1980 and asked them life related questions. The topics ranged from finances, education, housing, family relationships, job opportunities, etc. I could relate with so many of the responses. In addition to the answers from interviews, the author also adds her own stories.

This book is well written, easy to read and very relatable. I felt this book was written just for me and I was born in 1961. I highly recommend this book if you are in this age range or close to it and have faced or are facing these types of stressful issues. This book will show you are not alone in your feelings.
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Ada Calhoun has put a lot of research into this excellent book, though it lacked an intersectional lens. As a millennial, I didn't connect with a lot of this book but the audience is explicitly Gen X, so that's to be expected. I would've appreciated a bit more attention paid to institutional and structural barriers that women of color, women in poverty, immigrant women, and other marginalized women face.
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This is a Netgalley ARC review. All opinions are solely my own.

As a Generation X woman, Why We Can't Sleep by Ada Calhoun, seemed like a piece of self help reading I would find insightful. I was correct. This book gives us some very generational insights into why we can't sleep and offers some ideas.

I could personally relate to almost every chapter but most telling is chapter 7, "Single, Childless." This was my chapter. While I have amazing female friends most of them are married and/or divorced with children. They do not fully sympathize with the struggles that someone single and unable to have children faces.

I will keep this book on my shelf for future reference.
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As soon as I saw this title Why we can’t sleep, I knew I had to read it. I’m almost 40 and could totally relate to what the author was saying about generation x’ers. I found this to be a very interesting read.
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