This review was posted by Jack Hart on Good Reads. See the original here: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/33799264-housewife?from_search=true
When Kristin Collier’s husband revealed to her that he suffered what medical jargon names as “gender dysphoria,” she and he and the kids went to the library and came back with “books on dinosaurs, bugs, castles and transsexuals.”
Included in their haul was at least one good memoir detailing the experience of transitioning, but no account of what the experience might be like for a gender-changer’s spouse. A Yahoo Groups forum for old partners of newly transitioning folks eventually provided a common ground where she could learn, explore, and exchange. After a certain point, though, she felt called to take into account her own circumstances and map out the winding path to truth as she had come to know it. “I have attempted to write the book,” she says, as heart-opening memoirs often do, “that I was longing for at that time.”
It’s a boots-on-the-ground odyssey through norms, expectations, inner experience—the phases and nuances of coming to terms with one’s own changes when the acknowledged inner truth of a loved one changes radically. Her prose is at once straight forward and evocative. The cast of characters that pass through her kitchen in the progressive college town where she lives are recognizable, and yet singular. Each is given the dignity of his or her own life, and understanding of that life.
As a spoiler her former husband transitions successfully, they continue to live under the same roof with their two kids, and they become “parenting partners.” These facts, though, are just the book’s skeleton. Its flesh and blood is the narrative of uncertainty, and of the acceptance of uncertainty, that she works through as she learns to stay in close and trusting relationship with her parenting partner—while exploring her need for community and testing her hope for romantic intimacy.
Quite sufficient, but never excessive, details are provided about both the changes in her sexual relationship with her parenting partner, as well as her exploration of the unsought freedom that comes to her after they agree to stop sharing a bed. I thought it was in these details that her book achieved its most artful transparency. The courage and skill with which she laid bare, discretely, but with some completeness, both the inner landscapes and outer circumstances of her new relationships took my breath away.
It occurs to me that perhaps her candor was inspired by her parenting partner Seda’s coming out as female-identified. Because Kristin, in effect, outs herself as cis-gendered. She writes of her experience of femininity, of what she wanted in a relationship, what she got, and what the differences were and what they might mean. She owns her desires, ponders them, experiments with them. Her descriptions of the men in her life achieve an even-handed vulnerability that give the sometimes loose narrative of the second part a potent charm.
One gets the impression that from an early age and by necessity she was self-reliant, but that in her attempt to nurture fresh love that she can integrate into her existing family structure she achieved a remarkably clear vision of who she is in relation to all that she desires.