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Book Review – What Kate Did Next

February 3, 2010

What Kate Did Next

by Lisa Heidke


As most of you already know (and are probably already sick of hearing about!) I am a working mom.  That means that when I get home from work I exhaustedly stumble from one task to the next – cooking, cleaning, and pretending to be a good mom – until I collapse in bed at 9:30.  And then I wake up the next morning and do it all over again. 

As as I rush around every day, trying to cross things off my To-Do List, I often wonder how much easier life would be if I could just give up one of the many things I feel so compelled to tackle every day.  Would it be a tragedy if I left my wet towel on the bathroom floor?  No.  Would I get fired if I stopped checking emails 24/7 and shut my computer down at a decent hour?   Probably not.  Would the world come to a grinding halt if I put aside my cookbooks and ordered a pizza instead?  Of course not.  And yet I can’t stop myself from trying to be perfect at everything – home life, work life, and family life.  Why?  Because my worst nightmare is that I will wake up in 10 years and be no closer to my goals and aspirations than I am today.  And seriously, what is more frustrating and less productive than regretting the things you haven’t accomplished? 

In What Kate Did Next, Kate Cavendish is a 36-year-old mother and wife who wakes up one day regretting that she traded in her promising career as a photographer for marriage and motherhood.  Her kids don’t appreciate her, her husband is never around, and Kate hates that she lacks the energy and self-confidence to kick-start her career and her life again. 

But Kate’s life changes forever when an old colleague offers her a temporary position as a food photographer at a prominent magazine.  Kate surprises herself and her family by taking the job and quickly finds herself struggling to juggle her kids needs, an ill-tempered boss, her crumbling marriage, and the temptation of her son’s soccer coach.  She manages to get by with no major catastrophes until her rebellious 13-year-old daughter Lexie’s growing pains turn into something much worse, and through a haze of guilt Kate wonders if the grass is ever really greener on the other side.

Author Lisa Heidke, a mother and successful writer herself, does a fabulous job of making Kate human.    Kate is so very relatable, not only as a mother but also as a daughter, a sister, and a wife.  She isn’t perfect and doesn’t pretend to be, which is very refreshing.  I love that the author takes on taboo topics that few people discuss but many struggle with – work/life balance, selflessness, infidelity, and getting older. 

I highly recommend this light, funny account of a suburban housewife who not only finds peace and happiness but who eventually finds her place in the world without losing herself or the people she loves the most.

I would like to thank author Lisa Heidke for sending me this engaging and funny book to review.  I am also very excited that Lisa has agreed to answer some questions about the book and about the process of becoming a writer.  Many of us bloggers are also aspiring writers and I know her advice will certainly be helpful to all of us.  I plan to have that post up later this week. 

In the meantime, do you think it’s possible to juggle a family, a career, friends, health, and happiness?  Do you think it is possible to ever really have it all?

26 Comments leave one →
  1. February 3, 2010 9:52 pm

    YES, YES, and YES YES YES>

    but balancing all of our “hats” is yet, another full time job. I know it all to well, (as do we all)

    this is one book I know I would love. I can so relate. And I drive myself crazy for the same reasons you do…I intend fully to look back on my life and smile. I may not have a career or some other profession, but I try and do everything I do with all my heart and soul.

    I hope my family, in the end, knows HOW MUCH I ADORE THEM and how much I just want everything to be perfect (even when it rarely is….haha)

    Have a great night Ameena. I’m off to hang with Hubs (and get JJ to bed!)

  2. actorsdiet permalink
    February 3, 2010 10:08 pm

    thanks for the book review!
    i do believe we can have it all – in that our ideas of “perfection” are constantly changing.

  3. February 3, 2010 10:49 pm

    I demand less perfection since I was in high school – not wanting a top grade and be satisfied with just above avg marks. I still get stressed out in my world of work and family life having less than perfect expectations. My take is that if something comes easy (natural) to you go for it. Thanks for yr book review. Will check it out.

  4. February 4, 2010 3:35 am

    It’s amazing to see everyone saying ‘Yes’ so enthusiastically. Unfortunately, I am yet to get there. It’s still something I struggle with. Sigh!

  5. February 4, 2010 4:56 am

    OH thanks for the book review! I will have to check that one out. It sounds right up my alley.

    I do think it is perfectly possible to be involved and make progress in numerous activities, as long as the priorities are aligned right. I do think it is impossible to do everything with the same energy and quality across the board. Family should always always always be first and our efforts there should take precedence and show the most energy. But our lives can be filled with other aspirations as well. The key is finding the balance and knowing when to step back from some things. Like, for me, I knew that I couldn’t work full time and have the energy to be a good mom. Not saying that’s everyone but since my job was teaching that sucked a TON of time for little pay so it wasn’t worth it for me. Now, I still do side jobs of tutoring to still get the feel of working, but I limit the amount of responsibility. We each have to have multiple things to accommodate who we are since none of us are one-dimentional people, but we have to keep balanced too.

  6. February 4, 2010 4:57 am

    Great review! I know what you mean about striving for perfection and balance…and I’m sure it’s only 100 times worse when you add being a mother in there as well. I think you’re admirable, Ameena! You seem to juggle everything so well.

    And you know…I don’t know if it is possible to have it all. I guess that depends on what your definition of “all” is. 🙂

  7. February 4, 2010 5:24 am

    Great review….and interesting questions. I don’t know. I honestly don’t. I struggle each day to be happy and content with who I am and all the material things are just meaning less and less…they kind of have to.

  8. February 4, 2010 5:25 am

    This book sounds so good!!! Too bad my library does not have it 😦 Benefit of a long distance relationship: maybe my boyfriend’s library will?

    I do hope it’s possible to have it all. Growing up, my parents were both clinical social workers in private practice, and worked in the same office suite. They got to see each other regularly, had careers they loved and found rewarding, and since it was private practice they could rearrange their schedules enough to always pick us up from school and take us to activities. As for housework . . . that was my sister’s and my jobs! I was actually shocked to find out later that my classmates did not have chores like we did.

  9. February 4, 2010 5:32 am

    I ask myself the same things . . . and sometimes really try to be a little less obsessive about perfecting all aspects of my life. But I have such a hard time letting any of it go! I think all mothers try to find that elusive balance between family, career, housekeeping, and “me” time. Hopefully we’ll all get there someday!

  10. February 4, 2010 6:41 am

    I give you and all working moms credit. I don’t know how you do it. After work, exercise, and making dinner I’m beat. I can’t imagine having a child, too. Unfortunately our society doesn’t give working moms enough credit!

  11. February 4, 2010 6:48 am

    Very thoughtful post (and great book review). I have been struggling with the idea of trying to do EVERYTHING all the time, every day. I have a strong tendency towards perfection, yet realistically, I know I can never attain that perfection. It’s hard to let go and be OK with that towel in the floor. I think what’s most important is that you enjoy every moment. So, if that means leaving the dishes undone, then so be it. They’ll still be there. Your true friends will not think any less of you.

  12. February 4, 2010 7:18 am

    Sure, I think it’s possible to have it all–but I also think it’s important that each person decides for herself what “it all” is, and remember figuring out how to have it all is half the fun.

  13. February 4, 2010 7:28 am

    I think you can definitely have it all!! Instead of trying to jumble everything into one set of 24 hours, you have to have the ability to give and take each day to make room for what’s the most important at that time. It’s always changing, isn’t it?

  14. louisianagrown permalink
    February 4, 2010 8:02 am

    I think it’s definitely possible, but I don’t know if I’ll ever be a woman that accomplishes it. I’m in awe of people like Pioneer Women who seem to have endless amounts of energy and time.

  15. Stef @ moretolifethanlettuce permalink
    February 4, 2010 8:41 am

    how cool that she sent you the book AND is answering q’s? nice!! that book sounds great, right up my alley. food photographer? this book is bound to be a hit in the blogging community isn’t it?! i really admire the way that you balance work with your family, you do a great job!

  16. whydeprive permalink
    February 4, 2010 9:56 am

    This book sounds really good!
    I DO think we can have it all. Its obviously not easy, and doesnt just happen, but I fully believe its possible. And it better be because I want it all.

  17. February 4, 2010 10:32 am

    Have you read “Stumbling on Happiness”? This post made me think of that book. He talks a lot about being a “maximizer” (which has a lot of “must be the best” tendencies) and “satisficers” (people who can settle for good enough). I think if you’re a maximizer (I know I am), you really can’t have it all. I think this is because there will ALWAYS be something else to aspire to, even when you accomplish what you set out to accomplish. For me, if I get one of my books published, I’ll be thinking about the next book. It sets me up for unhappiness (and exhaustion). If you’re a satisficer, I think you can “have it all” because you’re happier with where you’re at, instead of pining for something else. I’m trying to be more this way. In general, I think having it all is subjective. Many people would look at me (or you, I’d guess) and think, “Wow, you have it all,” but it really depends on our self-perception. What my last therapist always asked me was, “What’s worth it to you in this life?” and that’s what I’m trying to answer.

    • February 4, 2010 8:34 pm

      Hi Kim – I haven’t heard of this book but I am going to look at it on right now! Thanks for the suggestion.

  18. February 4, 2010 11:01 am

    I think that it’s possible to have it all, but I always wonder if having it all will lead me to happiness. I have a hard time understanding how women like you manage to do it all (job, wife, mother, friend, etc), so I can imagine that it’s hard to find balance. I don’t have children yet, but I’ll have to cross that bridge one day!

  19. February 4, 2010 1:02 pm

    What a great question – and here is what I believe:

    Can you have it all?

    Most certainly, but “it all” will never be perfect. “It all” will constantly be surprising you with the unexpected, demanding more engery than you actually have and causing you to wake up somewhere you never thought you would ever be. Thats the joy of “it all”.

  20. February 4, 2010 10:48 pm

    OMG I have no time to read books IF I want to have interaction with others which is sadly limited to my online life that i grab minutes of here and there while child naps or whatever. But, if i were to read a book, sounds like this would be it.

    Do you think it is possible to ever really have it all?–
    Well possibly, but as Diane Sawyer once said about 10 yrs ago on oprah and why i remember this, i dont know…but it is, but not all at one time.
    Yes, I have had a career, husband, child, happy fulfilled personal identity…but not all at once. You’re a mom, wife, worker, i dont need to explain this to you 🙂 We speak the same language, im sure.

    Great review, info, etc. i could write a novel.

  21. February 5, 2010 2:35 pm

    i hope i stumble across this book at the library, it sounds like a good read!!

  22. February 5, 2010 10:08 pm

    Hi Ameena,
    Thanks so much for the great reviews – and for the varied and thoughtful comments. I wish my book was for sale in the USA – we’re working on it.
    In the meantime, I am busily answering Ameena’s interview questions. Please check out my website and blog at if you have the time.

  23. February 7, 2010 10:02 am

    i am more into suspense thriller books but id love to get a hold of books like this for a change. 🙂

    btw, i stumbled across your blog this morning while i was bloghopping and i must say i enjoyed reading your posts. as a matter of fact, i immediately saved it on my personal picks’ list. 🙂

    i don’t have a kid yet but your posts about Maya are just so refreshing. i’ll definitely be a regular reader from now on. see u around!

  24. February 23, 2010 4:40 pm

    Do you guys get to keep the products after the review? I heard you did – lucky buggers 🙂 Thanks for the review.


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