Reviews for A Double Life

A Double Life makes the list: 2011 Independent Press Highlight from National Book Critics Circle.

Featured in Pregnancy and Newborn, October 2011:

“Harper’s elegant, thoughtful writing makes this a must-read for expectant parents: there is both affirmation and information, such as a scientific explanation of how the fetus and placenta regulate pregnancy. The author skillfully moves between the personal and the technical as she muses on the ways becoming a parent transforms a woman’s body, mind, and spirit; she chronicles what happens during pregnancy, and uses her research to explain how and why. “Motherhood meant change,” she writes, and “expecting meant not expecting.” With those uncertainties in mind, she recounts her own transformations: from a woman using birth control to one who wants nothing more than to conceive; from energetic swing dancer to a “lame duck” temporarily hobbled by sciatica; finally, to mother of Ella. Harper also examines the ways in which her movement toward motherhood affected her relationships with husband Kory and her own mother. The author’s decision to cast her own experiences against the larger backdrops of biology, family, and transformation makes her book universal, moving, and relevant.” –Publishers Weekly

“With a stiff measure of gallows humor, Harper (MFA Program/Univ. of San Francisco) rides the physical, mental and emotional waves churned by impending motherhood.

The author was 35 when she became pregnant for the first time, and she faced the adversities of being an older mother, especially the hormones that “played on my system like friendly demons.” The second trimester replaced nausea with a hunger so deep it felt primitive—one of Harper’s appealing characteristics is the elemental, primal sensibility she brought to pregnancy—a manic nesting urge and the quickening that came with the first felt movement of the baby. Then came sciatica, and her body grew ponderous, as did her mind, a dumb happiness of contentment. There was discomfort and pain throughout the pregnancy, but labor introduced her to the genuine article: “each contraction, its beginning, its swollen, mind-splitting climax, its slow release.” After enduring 40 hours of labor, her smile returned as she and her husband left the hospital, feeling like a couple of miscreants who had found a bag of money that didn’t belong to them: “How could we have been entrusted with such a thing? What were we to do now?” With her new daughter, Harper’s borders shrunk, and her life became minimized. Though she was nearly undone by the tedium of a mother’s chores, she writes, “if the crushing love that I felt for her made me newly and forever fearful of morality…there was something else, too, something with wings rising now like hope, or gratitude, or grace.”

A sweet, immediate articulation of the experience of pregnancy, birth and early motherhood.”–Kirkus

“I adored Harper’s book: it is full of careful, scientific details that were new to me, it is written in eloquent, beautiful prose, and more than once it made me gasp with identification.”  –Read the full review on A Design So Vast.

“I don’t have children, but still relished Harper’s astute observations and found the book impossible to put down.”  –Read the full review and the Playlist for  A Double Life at Large Hearted Boy

A “superbly written and well-researched memoir…  It’s a must read for both moms and dads expecting their first child and something they can enjoy together while awaiting the birth of their baby.”  Read the full review at Book Dads.

“Anyone with a family — and those contemplating starting one — will enjoy this wry, revealing memoir of motherhood.”  A lovely short review, in full at Books by the Bay.

Review of A Double Life in Summer 2011, Brain, Child.

Review of A Double Life on Literary Mama.

Feature on BaristaNet

On Literary Mamas, Mill Valley Herald

Backstory, Q & A, in the San Jose Mercury News

Review + Giveaway at 5 Minutes for Moms

Large Hearted Boy:  Review + The Official Playlist for A Double Life

Review of A Double Life at A Design So Vast

Review of A Double Life at SF Gate’s City Brights

Reviewed in Books by the Bay, Contra Costa Times

Mother’s Day Read Pick at the SF Examiner

Two-page feature and review in South Orange-Maplewood News Record, excerpt is here

Pre-publication Praise for A Double Life:

“In A DOUBLE LIFE, Lisa Catherine Harper delivers a complex, heartfelt exploration of pregnancy and motherhood. Smart, accessible, and emotionally compelling, it is part memoir, part manifesto—a riveting read for anyone who is a mother, or hopes to become one.”

Michelle Richmond, author of The Year of Fog and No One You Know

“Harper’s A DOUBLE LIFE is a joy to read!  Full of lyrical prose, fascinating information and profound observation, this book should top any baby shower gift list or any new mother’s stack of bedside books.  It is not to be missed.”

Kimberly Ford, Ph.D., author of Hump: True Tales of Sex After Kids

“At once astutely observed and exemplarily researched, Lisa Catherine Harper’s memoir is a graceful reminder that even the best planned pregnancy is ever a life-altering surprise.”

Cristina Nehring, author of A Vindication of Love

“In an increasingly crowded field of parenting memoirs, A DOUBLE LIFE stands out for its clear-eyed yet lyrical account of a woman’s journey into motherhood with her daughter. The book is honest without lapsing into bitterness, celebratory without becoming saccharine, a quietly joyful account of motherhood’s emotional, biological and physiological transformations that any parent can relate to and learn from. As an expectant mother, I would have welcomed such a book for its candor and information, which go far beyond what’s offered in pregnancy and  parenting guides;  today, deep into my mothering, I find its  reflections speak eloquently to me about those disorienting and  wondrous early days.”

Caroline Grant, Mama, PhD &
Editor-n-Chief, Literary Mama

“An insightful memoir, written from the heart.  Lisa Harper is well-researched in her medical knowledge and eloquent in her descriptions.  A refreshing new interpretation of such common themes as pregnancy and motherhood.  Engaging from start to finish.”

Stephanie Barbagiovanni, M.D.

“For a lot of new fathers, there are two deep and inextricable mysteries: (1) All the confusing stuff that happens to your wife when she becomes a mother, and (2) All the boring books about stuff that happens to your wife when she becomes a mother. From this standpoint Lisa Catherine Harper’s funny, honest, literate, and eye-opening memoir A DOUBLE LIFE is an absolute godsend. It tells the truth about motherhood, it does so in a lively and thoughtful way, and it never slips into the mommy-wars rhetoric that seems lately to have worn out its welcome. So if you’re looking for a new book about parenting that won’t make you look like a dork on the commuter train, let me help: This is the cool one.”

Jeff Gordinier, author of X Saves the World

“Harper’s clear-eyed, unsentimental, gorgeously moving narrative is unlike any memoir of mothering I’ve ever run into—unlike any memoir I’ve ever read. She eloquently mixes personal reflection with philosophy, with science, with literature and meditations on art, so that the whole becomes larger than her own story and the personal becomes universal. It is a story not just of motherhood and pregnancy and birth, but of something larger—family and history, relationships and love. It is as if you’ve sat down with your wise and well-read, self-aware and witty best friend and begged her, terrified: please, I need to know everything. I need to know what it’s really like, this mysterious parenthood thing, from the idea of pregnancy to the ideas of pregnancy, from conception through birth through the whole first year—and she tells you, holding nothing back. Harper speaks honestly, lyrically, practically, and it is just as terrifying as you thought it would be, but also uplifting, and moving, and so real.

If you have children, you should read this book. If you want to have children, you need to read this book. If you think you’ve made up your mind and will never have a child, you need to read this beautiful book.”

Jen Larsen, author of Stranger Here

“A DOUBLE LIFE is a perfect account of both the physical and emotional journey of pregnancy and birth.  As a perinatal nurse and first time mother, it eloquently integrated what my mind knew with what my heart was feeling.  During my most vulnerable times, when I felt completely foreign, its detail and honesty comforted me like an old friend.”

Michelle Currie Smith, RN, MSN

“Lisa Harper’s A DOUBLE LIFE soars well above the how-to and been-there-done-that volumes that crowd the bookstore’s Parenting section.  It offers wisdom and knowledge, literature and science, grace and depth.  For the thinking parent or parent-to-be, there is nothing quite like it.  It inspires, informs, and creates a space for grasping one’s own place on the amazing journey of creation.”

Lewis Buzbee, The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop

“I don’t even have kids and I loved this book. A DOUBLE LIFE is a compelling, meditative narrative on the art and science of child rearing. Lisa Harper’s writing is tender, intelligent and informative.”

Melissa Clark, Swimming Upstream Slowly

“A DOUBLE LIFE returned me to so, so many feelings I had during my own pregnancy, my daughter’s birth and its aftermath. This is the kind of book I’d have wanted to read during that particular time in my life.”

Julie Bruck, author of Monkey Ranch

“Ask an intelligent young woman how she’s thinking about pregnancy and motherhood, and you have a deeply moving, intellectually provocative memoir, A DOUBLE LIFE:  DISCOVERING MOTHERHOOD. Profound shifts in a life call for profound writing. Lisa Harper wonderfully rises to the challenge.”

Nina Schuyler, author of The Painting

Guest blogs

One year later:  Guest post for River Teeth Journal

On Motherhood and Creativity + Giveaway, It’s my Baby

The Patch: Review & Q & A about Writing and Parenting

Q & A with Kate Hopper at Motherwords.

Q & A with Karen D’Souza in San Jose Mercury News. Read here.

What Motherhood Taught Me about the Rest of Life: guest post at Kris Carr’s  Crazy Sexy Life

Discovering Motherhood:  Guest post at Gaga Sisterhood

Motherhood and Creativity: Guest Post at It’s My Baby Blog

5 Minutes for Books: Guest Post on What to Read When You’re Expecting

5 Minutes for Books: Guest Post for World Read Aloud Day on Poetry for Children

Lisa Romeo Writes: Guest Post On Writing A Double Life

Motherhood Later Rather Than Sooner, Guest Post

Author feature at Paper-Pencil-Pen