by Elsa Walsh
When it comes to juggling high-profile careers with gender issues and complicated marriages, you would think women like TV journalist Meredith Vieira, conductor Rachael Worby and surgeon Alison Estabrook would have it made. But as Elsa Walsh demonstrates, there’s no such thing as a superwoman. In fact, there may be a black underbelly to the feminist dream of a big career, marriage and children.
Walsh hones in on each of her subjects’ central dilemmas: 60 Minutes correspondent Meredith Vieira found that her dream job interfered with her wish to be a hands-on mom. Rachael Worby, a fine conductor who had been building her career when she married the governor of West Virginia, got caught between music and her duties as a political wife. And Alison Estabrook, a dedicated breast surgeon, decided that being a woman hampered her advancement when she was passed over as department chief at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center.
Walsh could easily be one of her own subjects. A former Washington Post reporter, she is married to Post editor Bob Woodward of Watergate fame. If anything, she may be too close to her subjects. All are women of privilege, for whom child care and meeting the mortgage are not cause for concern. Still, by shining her investigative light into the crevices of their lives, Walsh creates three distinct narratives that are as intimate as they are objective. After all, if these women’s lives are complex, divided and at times fractured, what does that mean for the rest of us? (Simon & Schuster, $23)