“I Was Told It Would Get Easier” is a Historic and Entertaining Ride

Abbi Waxman’s fourth novel was my first encounter with her writing, and she hooked me from the start with a stellar first sentence:

“I left the house this morning, determined to take the day by the horns and throw it over my shoulder like a scarf, if necessary. I’d had two cups of coffee, I’d remembered to floss, and I was going to tell my boss the crap with Valentina simply wasn’t going to fly anymore.”

It’s no secret I like a grabby first sentence. Not only does the voice of this single mother killing it at a law firm while raising a sassy teenager grab me, but the second paragraph brings to light one of those fun songs I’ll always associate with the sass and energy of its era.

“…I walked into the office slightly less full of beans and with “Tik Tok” by Kesha stuck in my head…The party don’t start till I walk in…If only I had half her confidence.”

But even before the first sentence I was intrigued. The book is about a mother-daughter college tour of the swankiest of colleges, the indecision that plagues many a college applicant teen, and the tenuous relationship (I’ve heard) that bedevils the mother-daughter relationship. There is a jauntily drawn map at the start, indicating a range of locales beginning in Washington D.C. and ending in New York City. By the time the book was done, I’d highlighted numerous places I want to visit, thanks to historically significant tour details.

This map is being included to remind the future post-pandemic me I need to do this tour!

For example, I’ve been to Washington D.C. once or twice, but how did I miss the “Ford’s Theatre,” the site of President Lincoln’s assassination? And why have I not visited Philadelphia yet, or run up the Rocky Steps? And how have I not heard of the Beekman Arms — the oldest inn in the US, where many historical/famous figures have slept and dined, from George Washington to my favourite pianist Billy Joel? Sure, the pandemic has lowered my travel aspirations a bit, but now I’m adding these highlights to my bucket list things to do.

Of all the books I read in December, most of which were quite good, this one I devoured. As a college applicant back in 1984, the option of touring Princeton, Georgetown, or John Hopkins Universities was not presented to me. Not that I had the grades for it. But living vicariously through the eyes of a teen who does have those options was fascinating.

Also, Waxman’s depiction of the single whip-smart mom and the conflicted teenage girl voices was humorous, meaningful and engaging. Both characters were exceptionally well drawn. Jessica’s persistence in ascertaining equal rights for women partners in her firm made me wonder if I could ever be so bold. And Emily’s tactful negotiation of the issues surrounding a brewing college application scandal kept a level of suspense going through the book until the end.

I will be reading more of Waxman’s books, and I highly recommend you do the same!

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