Title: The Tao of Martha: My Year of Living; Or, Why I’m Never Getting All That Glitter Off of the Dog
Author: Jen Lancaster
Narrator: Jen Lancaster
Audiobook Length: 8 hours, 56 minutes
Origins: Penguin Audio
Release Date: 4 June 2013
Bottom Line: Hilarious and quite insightful
“Jen’s still a little rough around the edges. Suffice it to say, she’s no Martha Stewart. And that is exactly why Jen is going to Martha up and live her life according to the advice of America’s overachieving older sister — the woman who turns lemons into lavender-infused lemonade.
By immersing herself in Martha’s media empire, Jen will embark on a year-long quest to take herself, her house, her husband (and maybe even her pets) to the next level — from closet organization to craft making, from party planning to kitchen prep.
Maybe Jen can go four days without giving herself food poisoning if she follows Martha’s dictates on proper storage….Maybe she can grow closer to her girlfriends by taking up their boring-ass hobbies like knitting and sewing.…Maybe she can finally rid her workout clothes of meatball stains by using Martha’s laundry tips.… Maybe she can create a more meaningful anniversary celebration than just getting drunk in the pool with her husband….again. And maybe, just maybe, she’ll discover that the key to happiness does, in fact, lie in Martha’s perfectly arranged cupboards and artfully displayed charcuterie platters.
Or maybe not.”
Thoughts: Jen Lancaster has made a name for herself documenting her story using self-deprecating humor and honesty. Her penchant for self-improvement and the often hilarious mistakes made along the way highlight not only the lessons she learns but also her ability to make fun of herself. The Tao of Martha follows in that same vein, as Jen explores the fundamental tenets of Martha’s personal philosophy surrounding gardening, housekeeping, party planning, etc. and just how much happiness a little organization can bring.
Martha Stewart is one of those polarizing celebrities. Either you love her or hate her, and the feelings on both sides run hot. Those readers who love Martha will view Jen’s insights and experiences as confirmation of Martha’s awesomeness. However, those readers who feel Martha is the devil incarnate can also appreciate Jen’s learned lessons. Nothing she sets out to accomplish is totally earth-shattering or difficult to accomplish. One does not have to have weeks of free time to organize or plan. Instead, Jen shows the world how adaptable the queen of housekeeping’s tenets are and, when not taken to the extreme, how helpful they can be. Yes, organization can lead to happiness after all.
As fun as Jen’s lessons from Martha are, it is the tao of Maisy that steals the show. Jen’s love of her dogs is hilarious, especially for fellow dog owners, and all of the dogs have larger-than-life personalities that compliment Jen’s own. However, it is in the pain and sorrow of Maisy’s illness where the story shines and Jen shows her true colors. She may make fun of herself, but when it comes to her dogs – especially her beloved Maisy – she has a heart of gold that knows no bounds. Maisy’s/Jen’s “Be awesome, give awesome, get awesome” philosophy is simple but profoundly wise in its uncomplicatedness, and the entire section surrounding Maisy is as heartfelt as any story can get.
For every moment Jen lets down her sarcastic front and shows a reader her compassionate side, there are at least two moments where a reader can only snort with laughter. Her honesty and openness about certain topics, including her choice of undergarments, is hilarious specifically because the situations are so uniquely told. While she uses humor to deflect, she cannot hide the self-reflective honesty that such scenes highlight, making these vignettes compelling and even addicting.
It is difficult to imagine anyone other than Jen narrating her stories. Not only does she tell her own stories best, her stories are so personal that to put them in the hands of someone else would minimize their impact. Her performance is exactly what one would envision after reading her words – bold, unapologetic, open, and very honest. She is not afraid to make fun of herself in both print and vocally, and her inflections are truly only something she can effectively add. To listen to her is to get to know her beyond what she says on the page and only serves to confirm the girl crush established by her extremely funny and very open glimpse into her life.
The fundamental discoveries Jen makes throughout her year of Martha are worthwhile and adaptable. Jen’s garden stories are particularly fun, and a reader will finish the book unable to view tick bites in the same light ever again. Yet, it is in the not-so-hilarious moments where Martha’s tao becomes truly important, as it helps Jen maneuver through life’s tougher moments without having to worry about the little things. While The Tao of Martha may not have ended up to be exactly what she thought it was when she started the year, Jen draws some profound conclusions that anyone can use. In the end, happiness, or at least the foundation for happiness, really is in a little organization and pre-planning. Go Queen Martha.