Review

Money, A Memoir: Women, Emotions, and Cash

by Liz Perle



When Liz Perle was a little girl, her grandmother brought her into
her room and produced a reticule from deep within a drawer.
Stuffing a folded $20 bill into the misshapen little purse, she
explained that it was the beginning of Liz's private stash. "Every
woman needs money of her own that her husband never knows
about."

The same grandmother also stressed that polite society never
discussed money. Lucky for us that Liz Perle ignored that taboo to
write this book, whose subtitle is "Women, Emotions, and Cash." The
book is a memoir to the extent that we learn the life experiences
that brought Perle to the point where she was forced to explore her
own fears and emotional connections to money. But it is also the
result of interviews with over 200 women of all ages and incomes
around the country, and their stories lend an added weight of
authority.

MONEY, A MEMOIR is not a self-help or fix-it book. It's more of a
"face-it" book, as we accompany the author on a plane back from
Shanghai with her four-year-old son, reluctant to count the wad of
bills her soon-to-be ex-husband gave her as she left him at the
airport. As she puts it, "There's nothing like losing just about
everything to lay bare what's important." Thus began the process of
examining her emotional relationship to and assumptions about
money.

She points out some sobering facts about our country: that more
than half of all retired women live in poverty. That more women
will file for bankruptcy this year than will graduate from college,
suffer a heart attack, or be diagnosed with cancer. She talks of
the emotional middle class, those who rely on money to
recreate safety and surety of the mythic middle class. "We marched
past the simple desire for comfort to a need for luxury." We want
nice things but we don't want to think of ourselves as
materialistic. As long as we experience purchases as necessities,
we can escape that nasty label. And there are plenty of
advertisements and catalogs to convince us that we deserve only the
highest thread count in our sheets. No wonder the average credit
card debt in the United States is $8,000.

Several chapters explore money as a symbol of power in
relationships and the not-so-pretty dances we do to avoid money
conflicts. Even if we do have our own jobs and our own money, what
happens when we get laid off? The author admits that between jobs
she resorted to filching $20 bills from her husband's wallet --- so
she could buy him a worthy present! We may not have gone that far,
but how many of us have knocked a few dollars off the cost of that
leather jacket when (if!) we tell our husbands?

Throughout the book, Perle maintains a warm, honest, direct tone
that keeps us reading about this sometimes uncomfortable topic. No
finger wagging here --- just material, both expert and anecdotal,
that helps us understand our own emotional attachments to cash.
"Perhaps that way we can move closer to liberating ourselves from
the fears and fantasies that keep us from asking to be paid what a
job is worth, or from saving for our retirement, or that leave us
mired in intractable debt." So go ahead, buy this book. It's money
well spent.

Reviewed by Eileen Zimmerman Nicol on January 7, 2011

Money, A Memoir: Women, Emotions, and Cash
by Liz Perle

  • Publication Date: December 12, 2006
  • Genres: Memoir, Nonfiction
  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Picador
  • ISBN-10: 0312426275
  • ISBN-13: 9780312426279