REVIEW: Men’s Guide to the Women’s Bathroom by Jo Barrett
Dear Ms Barrett,
When I read the pitch for your book The Men’s Guide to the Women’s Bathroom, I was intrigued by the slight weirdness of it. Okay, who hasn’t laughed at bathroom humor at one point in their lives. But I wondered if the concept of what really goes on when women head to the loo/toilet/washroom/bagno/Ladies/Sheila’s/WC would be enough to carry an entire book. The answer? Yes, when the book is really a Texas Chick Lit.
Claire St John has returned to her hometown of Austin, TX to lick her recent divorce wounds and decide what to do with her life. Being a lawyer no longer appeals to her now that she’s broken from the NYC “my life is making partner” rat race yet there’s not much else she’s qualified to do. Not much, she realizes, until the breakthrough moment when it hits her that much of the best advice she’s ever gotten or overheard has been while in that place in which total strangers seek and offer pearls of wisdom, The Ladies Room, the place to which woman go in pairs while they dissect their lives and pick apart the men in it. Now Claire has a plan. She’ll write a book that lays out the mysteries of the Inner Sanctum to all the clueless men who think women are merely answering nature’s call. And maybe, while doing so, she’ll get past the “waiting to exhale” stage with her current man Jake and help her many female friends through their own dating crisis moments.
While this book doesn’t really offer up anything really new and inspiring in the world of Chick Lit, it’s a well done, slightly improved example of the genre. Claire is not quite as silly as some CL heroines and does come with a wicked sense of humor. Her antics aren’t cringe worthy and rarely make her look like an idiot. Her friends are also more real life than caricatures with problems we’ve all had at one time or another. Perhaps this is because you’ve made most of them be more mature and in their early 30s but it was a nice change. One character I would like to have seen done differently was Claire’s gay friend Aaron. He’s funny and has moments of depth yet ultimately ends up coming off as a cipher, at least to me, a straight woman. If a character can come off as too gay, Aaron does.
The chapters Claire writes on what really goes on in the bathroom are quite funny. I think any woman has probably experienced, at one time or another, a lot of what she includes. I also laughed when Claire recalled how her husband talked her into touring Civil War battlefields for their honeymoon instead of flying out to Hawaii. Thirty years after her own similar honeymoon, a dear friend of mine still entertains people with tales of tramping through Andersonville and across hell and half of Georgia for her own Civil War buff husband. The “Booze Cruise” taken by Claire, her boyfriend and his parents was hysterical and I think that the rivalry between graduates of “University of” schools and “A&T” schools is never ending and universal.
I did think the ultimate reunion between Claire and Jake kind of came out of nowhere though I was happy to see them back together again. I also wondered how Claire could afford to go to all the Austin eateries you mentioned though their mention does give the book a wonderful “flavor.” Sorry, couldn’t resist that!
Readers who aren’t totally Chick-Lit’ed out or who want a break from vampires and Regency Dukes should think about reading this book. It’s fast and funny and kept me entertained until the end. The post book examples of worldwide bathroom behavior (real or imagined) were a scream although the scene between the two French women, while funny, had real life French living author Laura Florand racking her brains to think of any bathroom she’d ever been in in which this might have taken place. B for “Men’s Guide to the Women’s Bathroom.”