Like an urban Dian Fossey, Wednesday Martin decodes the primate social behaviors of Upper East Side mothers in a brilliantly original and witty memoir about her adventures assimilating into that most secretive and elite tribe.
After marrying a man from the Upper East Side and moving to the neighborhood, Wednesday Martin struggled to fit in. Drawing on her background in anthropology and primatology, she tried looking at her new world through that lens, and suddenly things fell into place. She understood the other mothers' snobbiness at school drop-off when she compared them to olive baboons. Her obsessional quest for a Hermes Birkin handbag made sense when she realized other females wielded them to establish dominance in their troop. And so she analyzed tribal migration patterns; display rituals; physical adornment, mutilation, and mating practices; extra-pair copulation; and more. Her conclusions are smart, thought provoking, and hilariously unexpected.
Every city has its Upper East Side, and in Wednesday's memoir listeners everywhere will recognize the strange cultural codes of powerful social hierarchies and the compelling desire to climb them. They will also see that Upper East Side mothers want the same things for their children that all mothers want - safety, happiness, and success - and not even sky-high penthouses and chauffeured SUVs can protect this ecologically released tribe from the universal experiences of anxiety and loss. When Wednesday's life turns upside down, she learns how deep the bonds of female friendship really are.
Intelligent, funny, and heartfelt, Primates of Park Avenue lifts a veil on a secret, elite world within a world - the exotic, fascinating, and strangely familiar culture of privileged Manhattan motherhood.
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Narration like an automaton
- Surly Girly "Say something about yourself!"
The stupid, it burns
The chief problem here isn't that the book is written by a shallow, self-absorbed, useless person who rather blithely reveals significant character flaws, including a rampant materialism--it's that it is horribly boring. A few of the UES details are interesting (all of which have been reported in the press), and possibly invented, but I don't care about the author, her "friends," or any of her half-baked anthropological analysis. Just stupid. Don't waste your money. Because she will.
- Emily Delzell