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Reviews of It. Goes. So. Fast. by Mary Kelly

It. Goes. So. Fast.

The Year of No Do-Overs

by Mary Louise Kelly

It. Goes. So. Fast. by Mary Louise Kelly X
It. Goes. So. Fast. by Mary Louise Kelly
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  • Published:
    Apr 2023, 240 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Kathleen Basi
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About this Book

Book Summary

Operating Instructions meets Glennon Doyle in this new book by famed NPR reporter Mary Louise Kelly that is destined to become a classic—about the year before her son goes to college—and the joys, losses and surprises that happen along the way.

The time for do-overs is over.

Ever since she became a parent, Mary Louise Kelly has said "next year." Next year will be the year she makes it to her son James's soccer games (which are on weekdays at 4 p.m., right when she is on the air on NPR's All Things Considered, talking to millions of listeners). Drive carpool for her son Alexander? Not if she wants to do that story about Ukraine and interview the secretary of state. Like millions of parents who wrestle with raising children while pursuing a career, she has never been cavalier about these decisions. The bargain she has always made with herself is this: this time I'll get on the plane, and next year I'll find a way to be there for the mom stuff.

Well, James and Alexander are now seventeen and fifteen, and a realization has overtaken Mary Louise: her older son will be leaving soon for college. There used to be years to make good on her promises; now, there are months, weeks, minutes. And with the devastating death of her beloved father, Mary Louise is facing act three of her life head-on.

Mary Louise is coming to grips with the reality every parent faces. Childhood has a definite expiration date. You have only so many years with your kids before they leave your house to build their own lives. It's what every parent is supposed to want, what they raise their children to do. But it is bittersweet. Mary Louise is also dealing with the realities of having aging parents. This pivotal time brings with it the enormous questions of what you did right and what you did wrong.

This chronicle of her eldest child's final year at home, of losing her father, as well as other curve balls thrown at her, is not a definitive answer―not for herself and certainly not for any other parent. But her questions, her issues, will resonate with every parent. And, yes, especially with mothers, who are judged more harshly by society and, more important, judge themselves more harshly. What would she do if she had to decide all over again?

Mary Louise's thoughts as she faces the coming year will speak to anyone who has ever cared about a child or a parent. It. Goes. So. Fast. is honest, funny, poignant, revelatory, and immensely relatable.

It. Goes. So. Fast.

These days I count the weeks. Before, it was months. Soon it will be days.

I'm counting the time left before my oldest child leaves home. The time left that the four of us will live together, under this roof, intact as a family. The time left—let's just come out and say it—for me to make a different choice.

This child, whose name is James, loves soccer. Always has. There's a photo of him, age one—one!—tiny soccer ball at his feet and huge grin on his face. Barely able to walk and already learning to dribble. Now fast-forward sixteen years. He's a starting striker on his high school varsity team. He lives for these games. This is a boy so catastrophically, irredeemably messy that even his younger brother, also a teenager, gets grossed out by the chaos. This same boy clears a space in the debris to carefully lay out his uniform the night before a game. Cleats, shin guards, cherished jersey, number 7, all washed and arranged at right...

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BookBrowse Review


Despite the back cover blurb, It. Goes. So. Fast. is not a chronology of James' senior year. It's more "mommy blog meets seasoned NPR interviewer." Kelly knows how to ask the questions that get to the heart of the matter. Here, she turns those skills on herself. As she tries to be fully present in James' last year at home, she reflects on her entire journey as a parent and a journalist. Kelly's beautiful book begins with the commitment to live in the moment, but as she struggles to keep that vow, she discovers that there really isn't a single moment; that, in fact, all the moments of our parenthood, childhood and later lives are connected, shedding light on each other...continued

Full Review Members Only (645 words)

(Reviewed by Kathleen Basi).

Media Reviews

USA Today
A book that will resonate with parents everywhere.

Booklist (starred review)
Exceptional...illuminating reflections and engaging stories...Some of the best chapters take readers along on Kelly's news reporting adventures...making the book as at home in the journalism section as it is in literature and parenting and giving an already excellent title added appeal.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
...she beautifully captures the chaos and pathos of parenting...Parents will cherish this.

Kirkus Reviews
An accomplished journalist's middling memoir about balancing work and motherhood.

Author Blurb Ann Patchett
It. Goes. So. Fast. is a moving and funny account of the deals we cut with ourselves: what we sacrifice, what we gain, and what we really want (which is everything). By holding up a mirror to her own choices, Mary Louise Kelly gives us tremendous insight into how we struggle to be true to ourselves and the people we love, and how we're never going to get it exactly right. This book is the voice of solidarity. It is a gift.

Author Blurb Hilma Wolitzer, Author of Today a Woman Went Mad in the Supermarket
This compelling account of the divided heart of a dedicated journalist and devoted mother is tender and gritty and remarkably relevant.

Author Blurb Katie Couric
Mary Louise Kelly has written an achingly honest memoir that reflects the joys, regrets, pitfalls and triumphs of the modern working mother. Humor, heart, and humanity bounce off every. single. page. I felt like I was having a bottle (or two) of wine with a close friend whose balancing act very much resonated with mine―and probably yours too.

Author Blurb Katty Kay, BBC Correspondent and New York Times bestselling author of The Confidence Code
A book for everyone who has to get through the sweet agony of raising children and letting them go. Kelly describes the interior shifts of this and other milestones with candor, vulnerability and wry humor.

Reader Reviews

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Beyond the Book

The Mommy Wars

Black-and-white still from the sitcom Leave It to Beaver showing the mother character with two boys in a bedroom, placing her hand on one boy's forehead In It. Goes. So. Fast., Mary Louise Kelly shares her struggles to balance work and family life. Although for Kelly there was never a question of whether or not to give up work permanently in favor of parenting, the difficulty of finding the balance she seeks makes that question a perennial topic of interest—and conflict—among mothers.

The "mommy wars," a concept of tension between working and stay-at-home mothers, became popular in the 1990s, driven in part by the claim that modern parents spent 40% less time with their children than earlier generations. The documentary news organization Retro Report shows that a careful reading of the sources has rendered this statistic questionable, but it became part of the cultural ...

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