This is the hugely anticipated follow-up to ‘I Don’t Know How She Does It’, the international bestselling novel that was recently adapted into a movie. 'How Hard Can It Be?' sees the return of Kate Reddy, but several years on from the previous novel, as she counts down the days till her 50th birthday. It is once again a bitter-sweet exploration of the challenges of trying to juggle a demanding career with running a family, of parent-child relationships, of the physical and emotional changes a body goes through at that point in one’s life, and ultimately of a marriage in crisis.
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The story introduces themes that are initially grounded in reality, and with plausible characters. Emily’s story is very well conveyed, for instance. However, as the story progresses, we are introduced to several improbable scenarios, especially how the conclusion neatly wraps up many of the story threads. For example, it is strange how a professional business-woman and economics wizard like Kate could be so out-of-tune with the pitfalls of social media, and technology in general. Plus, how does a father with a wife and 2 kids to support, and a household to run, get away with deciding he will not work or earn money for 2 years, plus simultaneously pay what would be thousands to attend a counselling course and retain, not to mention receiving professional therapy (more costs), AND spending £5000+ to spruce up his bike??? And to add insult to injury, have an extra-marital affair while he’s at it. And at no point do we see Kate actually sit him down and discuss how unacceptable this is - she just takes on the burden of playing ‘superwoman’ once more with little resistance. There isn’t even the expected showdown after her husband’s shenanigans come to light. Of course, by then Kate is in the arms of Jack Abelhammer, and her husband’s actions provide the excuse needed to divorce and pave the way clear to make her relationship with Jack official. And therein lies another truth ... wasn’t Kate already married when her initial romance with Jack happened? And now she is having an affair – again – behind her husband’s back (even though unbeknownst to Kate, her husband is, too)? Despicable.
Having said that, this is still an extremely well-crafted, effervescent, modern day family escapade. It is infused with dry humour and irony. Despite the serious issues covered, the tone is generally light-hearted, the dialogue aerated, and it's more than your average 'romantic/family/coming-of-age comedy drama'. It may not be a literary masterpiece in the conventional sense, but it there’s enough happening to keep you reading to the end. Fans of ‘I Don’t Know How She Does It’ will find this just as engaging.