There is actually a book I read in between my last book review City of Girls and this one but I honestly couldn’t wait to write about Maid! In the interim I read Verity by Colleen Hoover which I highly recommend and hope to do a blog post on in the future, possibly after my book club meets in a couple of weeks.
If you have not heard of Maid it is a New York Times best seller which now has a Netflix series based on it. I usually like to read the book first and then watch the series or movie but in this case I found out the series was based on a book the day after I started the series. As soon as I learned this though, I knew I had to eventually read the book!
The book is Stephanie Land’s memoir where she tells her story of how she was a single mom coming out of an abusive relationship, struggling to survive and had to clean houses to barely make ends meet. I usually do not like nonfiction, however, I have noticed that I do like memoirs. I have a blog post in mind to share about two other memoirs that I really enjoyed- Educated and Bella Figura.
Maid was no exception and I read this book in record time of 5 days. I’m a working mom of two kids with hectic schedules so for me, this was FAST! Spoiler alert, and I feel comfortable sharing this spoiler since it says it in the forward of the book, this has a happy ending! On that end though, her story was not an easy one and this book will really put things into perspective. Stephanie has to leave her daughter Mia’s father after he has outburst after outburst and she realizes it is not the best situation for them. Her mother lives in England with a husband and is not very present. She has fond memories of her grandparents but her grandmother has schizophrenia and had taken to adopting fifty feral cats. Stephanie tries living with her father but her father does not have the means to put a roof over Stephanie and her daughter Mia’s heads and this causes issues with Stephanie’s step mom Charlotte. Stephanie has nowhere to go and ends up homeless with her daughter.
Needless to say, she is the epitome of a person who needed government assistance but the system is broken and often times she cannot get the help she needs. She also does not have an education or any experience so it is hard for her to find a job that pays enough for her to be able to afford childcare for Mia and still profit from working. I know when I became a mother, the cost of childcare was a major shock to me. Stephanie starts working for a cleaning service that makes her $6 the hour after taxes and the cost of the cleaning supplies she must purchase with her own money. It’s an uphill struggle for her.
Her story is extraordinary since she prevails against all the odds. This is no spoiler given that you know the book is a memoir and it’s a New York Times best seller so clearly she has success later in life. Apart from this though I found her stories about the people she cleaned houses for to be so interesting. If you are privileged enough to have someone cleaning your house, you likely do not think about how much they know about you just be cleaning your personal space. She never even met some of her customers since they preferred not to be home when she was cleaning yet she could decipher so much about their lives! There was the one couple who she could tell lived together yet lived separate lives and even slept in separate rooms. There was a lady who liked to smoke and she could tell what chair this lady sat in to have her cigarettes. She knew so much about these people yet some of them did not even know her name or what she looked like.
If you think about it, this can happen in many lines of work. You learn so many details about the people you work for. I am a perfect example- I do taxes for a living. Needless to say, I need to know what my clients do for a living, how much they make, what they spend their money on etc. I am sure medical professionals can say the same as far as health records go. Real Estate professionals would also need to know their client’s financial situations. I know this has to be similar in so many other lines of work! You hire people to do a job and don’t realize how much they can learn about you.
As I mentioned, this book just really puts things in perspective. Needless to say there is the poverty aspect. She has to nickel and dime every meal, gas for every car ride, detergent every time she washes clothes, etc. Apart from that though, Stephanie has no one but herself and her daughter. She does not have parents, family or friends she can turn to. She is lonely to a point that she comes up with stories of what the lives of her clients must be like and she also grows to care for some of them even though she never meets them. There are also some that she does meet and ends up forming somewhat of a friendship with. Most people in my bubble can have a normal home cooked meal without thinking about the cost. They have family, friends and social events to attend. They travel and take vacations or go out to eat at restaurants. Their children participate in extra curricular activities because they can afford to have them do so. Stephanie had none of this and it made me realize we take so many of these little things for granted!
She needed government assistance and it failed her at times because the system is broken. She also felt that many middle class Americans looked down on her because she took government help and she had moments where people were rude and told her ‘ your welcome’ since they felt their hard earned tax money was taken to be given to someone like her. She reflects on this in the book and I understand her, however, I feel she does not recognize how many people take advantage of the system. In fact, I am surprised this does not bother her more because it’s part of the reason the system is so broken in my opinion. This help should be going to people like her and not those who know how to take advantage. I am the first to say that I am not working so my hard earned money can be taken by the government, however, a single homeless mom with no educational background needs help. I do not know how things are in Washington state where she lived but I think anyone in Miami can agree there are many who know how to work the system and that I am not ok with- especially as a working mom who would have loved to have been able to stay home with my babies.
The series was also great! It is a bit dark given the content. In the series they change some of the names. Stephanie is Alex, Mia is Maddie and Jamie (Mia’s Dad) is Sean. In the book while Jamie has outbursts, is abusive and sometimes comes home from the bar he works at drunk, I did not find she blamed his issues on alcoholism. In the series, Sean is an alcoholic who becomes abusive when he drinks and this is what ultimately makes Alex leave him. In the series Alex’s father is a recovered alcoholic who was abusive when she was a child and this is why she ultimately decides not to stay with him rather than the reality that he just couldn’t afford to put a roof over their heads. I guess they make these changed for the series because they felt it was more dramatic. In the series they also combine certain characters. For example, after reading the book I can tell that Alex’s mom is a combination of Stephanie’s mom and grandmother. In the series certain things just happen differently such as how Alex ultimately gets full custody of Maddie and is able to move away to Missoula, Montana. I do not want to give too much away even though the ending is obvious! Overall though, it is a similar story of a struggling mom trying to survive poverty while facing the world alone.
Needless to say, I thought both the series and the book are worth putting time into- especially the book! I commend Stephanie Land for having the courage to prevail and for not only making it in life, but for telling her story and living her dream of being a writer!
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