While the harrowing journey into womanhood has been a topic of such thoughtful and hugely popular books as Reviving Ophelia, Schoolgirls, and Girlfriends, the equally harrowing journey into manhood has not received much attention. In the Country of Men, Jan Waldron’s second beautiful memoir, is a paean to boyhood and an exposé of the myths of manhood.
This book grew out of a piece Waldron wrote for The New York Times Magazine about her teenage sons and their journeys into manhood. It was received with such enthusiasm, and she had so much more to say about the subject, that she decided to expand the piece into a full-length book that would include her father, her brother, her lovers, and her sons.
Waldron does not write from a discipline or a movement. She writes at eye-level, from across the kitchen table. In the same way that Anne Roiphe’s highly acclaimed memoir Fruitful (a National Book Award finalist), was also an exploration of modern motherhood, In the Country of Men combines beautiful writing and deeply felt personal experiences to make readers think long and hard about how we are raising our sons.
In the Country of Men begins with memories of Jan’s father, a boy who never really grew up, and her brother, a boy who had to grow up too fast. She takes readers through the high drama of her first kiss, and the deep disappointment of her relationship with the father of her sons, who left the family when their two sons were four and five. She has finally found a happy, lasting relationship with a man. And it is with her sons that she has found hope and a vision for the future.