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Book Review: 'Ruminations from the Minivan'

Published on: December 30, 2013

ruminations-from-the-minivan-imageAlison Krupnick is, without a doubt, a “turkey-maker.” In her autobiographical Book Ruminations From the Minivan: Musings From a World Grown Large, Then Small, Krupnick divides people into one of two categories: The “turkey-makers” and “turkey-eaters.” The turkey-makers spend hours in the kitchen, sleeves rolled up, chopping, basting and massaging herbs into delectable dishes. The turkey eaters wait around for the food.

Her book isn’t just food parables. The book follows Krupnick’s decade-long stint as a U.S. diplomat in various countries across the globe to the confines of parenting from the front-seat of a minivan in Seattle. While her travels left me hungry for exotic foods and adventures abroad, it was the infusion of wit and sincerity that made this read truly delectable.

Krupnick lived the life I’d hope to live, if only I was brilliant and brave enough. Just when her account of her adventures verge on self-congratulatory, she reveals her vulnerability. As a diplomat in India and Vietnam, she describes the disillusionment of being in a position of authority where her day-to-day decisions tremendously altered peoples’ lives. Perhaps her most poignant writing is when she recounts the day-to-day struggles of parenting.

I admit, I found some comfort in the fact that someone with her sense of adventure didn't immediately hike across Europe with baby in tow. She found a way to nurture the world-traveler within through food and friendship, and her multicultural influence at her local school’s PTA. Her struggle to bridge the gap between her past-self and herself as a parent resonated with me. Who knew that being a foreign diplomat and navigating preschool friendships could require the same level of diplomacy?

As she described a trip with her young daughter to Swanson’s nursery in Seattle's Ballard neighborhood (a place I frequent), it struck me: Krupnick could easily be that bleary-eyed mom ahead of me in line at the grocery store. I wonder how many adventures I may have missed hearing about simply because I didn't think to ask those around me about their past?

Krupnick’s story closes with her account of caring for her strong-willed yet frail mother.  The tension and eventual resolution of that relationship was perhaps the most touching writing of the entire book. I was sad to be finished with her story when I read the final page. I have since discovered her blog, Slice of Midlife, in which she documents the day-to-day adventures of cooking food from around the world and parenting teen daughters from her Seattle home.

I recommend this book to anyone who has tried to find their place in the world — as a parent, world-traveler or daughter.

rorygravesRory is a slightly neurotic mom to three young children and an intern at Parentmap. She recently taught herself to play the accordion through Youtube videos and can often be found hiding from her kids in the closet while eating chocolate chips (which she aspires to bake something with but never does). Her perfect day would include a trip to a local beach with her children, taco truck tacos for dinner, and roasting marshmallows around a campfire with friends. You can see more of her musings about parenting at ParanoidStayAtHomeMom.

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