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Carry On, Warrior: Thoughts on Life Unarmed, by Glennon Doyle Melton
(Scribner, 266 pages)

05/23/13



5/23/2013 -  I came across Glennon Doyle Melton’s blog a year ago, and while the writing was solid, I drifted away, turned off by too much perfection. Turns out I wasn’t the only one.

 
In the opening of Melton’s new book, she confesses that other women were approaching her at church to say the same thing. “You are so pulled together. It makes me feel so apart,” one woman said. Carry On, Warrior effectively solves that problem.
 
As Melton puts it, her life is as worthy of admiration as her height (5’2½”) and culinary skills (frozen pizza is a staple). She’s a recovering bulimic, alcoholic and drug user who stumbled into marriage because of an unplanned pregnancy. Her husband is gorgeous (a model, of course) and adoring, but he has been unfaithful, and sometimes she’s still not sure they’re going to make it long-term, although the family is precious and highly photogenic and increasingly solvent.
 
Melton’s blog is Momastery.com, and Carry On, Warrior is the sum of its parts. It is also an effective refutation of the sneering charge that a blog can’t be a good book. This is a book of blog postings, and while the chapters are short and often unrelated, they present as a cohesive, entertaining and deeply moving memoir. Whatever Melton’s failings as a party girl, she’s found her success as a writer.
 
It’s unclear exactly what she did besides binge, snort and drink before beginning to blog in 2009. Those were her so-called “festive” days, and Melton met her husband on a bar crawl through Washington, D.C., when she’d only had “three or seven beers.” The serial wantonness and debauchery ended the morning Melton realized she was pregnant with her son (who now has a clean mother and two younger sisters). 
 
With the help of her own sister, after the pregnancy test was positive, Melton cleared her room of beer bottles, plugged her emotional holes with God, and staggered toward a future of sober domesticity. Only, the domesticity part didn’t doesn’t much agree with her.  She prepares most meals by dialing for take-out and confesses that her family’s clothes smell strongly of mildew. She stopped vacuuming the day she realized her daughter’s doll stroller left vacuum-like lines on the rug, so to “vacuum” she had her daughter push the stroller around the room, while supervising from the coach, until her husband noticed that the freshly vacuumed carpet always had dirt and lint embedded.
 
Demonstrating that he, too, is more than a pretty face, Melton’s husband, Craig, bought her a new vacuum to replace the “malfunctioning” one. 
 
Melton told her daughter the new vacuum was “brand-new, big-girl stroller.” With an engine. And taught her to push the vacuum around the room, baby on board.
 
That’s classic Glennon: self-deprecating, sardonic, mildly insane, major-league wit. True, it is wit that is best appreciated if you, too, are outnumbered by children who may one day shriek, “Mommy! You smell like a bar!” in the cardigan-filled waiting room of the pediatric dentist. That the “bar” was an energy bar was unknown to other mothers who, horrified, looked over at Melton, who was sitting there with a water bottle filled with 41 ounces of … beet juice.
 
Melton plays best to an audience of church-going mothers who cuss. But this memoir casts a wider net, delving into such disparate topics as her sister’s divorce, her own volcanic marriage, struggles with chronic illness (she has Lyme disease) and the difficulty of maintaining zen when seated  at yoga class next to Smelly, Coughy Guy. Everything here is revealed; Melton calls her style “living out loud.” While her parents and husband sometimes plead that she should take a few things to the grave, Melton rejects self-censorship. She believes that sharing everything — the ugliness, hole-iness and messiness of our lives — is the way to forge relationships dense with meaning. 
 
The title of the book was born on a playground, where Melton sat making small talk with a woman called Tess. Melton suspected Tess might be having marital trouble, but couldn’t bring it up because they were “too busy talking about important things, like soccer practice and highlights.” Mulling this, Melton realized she’d covered her imperfect past with armor that was serving no useful purpose.
 
“Life without touching other people is boring as hell,” she writes. “It hit me that maybe the battles of life are best fought without armor and without weapons. That maybe life gets real, good, and interesting when we remove all of the layers of protection we’ve built around our hearts and walk out onto the battlefield of life naked.” 
 
This is good and useful imagery when you’re as ridiculously photogenic as Melton and her family. And Melton occasionally lets loose a cloying sentimentality, such as “brutiful,” the word she coined to describe life as beautiful and brutal. At such a time, we’re tempted to avert our eyes briefly or offer her a drink. But, carry on, Glennon Doyle Melton. The book proves the worth of the blog, and if you’re this good at your first manuscript, we expect to be enamored of the tenth. A 





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