An instant #1 New York Times bestseller, Primates of Park Avenue is an “amusing, perceptive and…deliciously evil” (The New York Times Book Review) memoir of the most secretive and elite tribe—Manhattan’s Upper East Side mothers.
When Wednesday Martin first arrives on New York City’s Upper East Side, she’s clueless about the right addresses, the right wardrobe, and the right schools, and she’s taken aback by the glamorous, sharp-elbowed mommies around her. She feels hazed and unwelcome until she begins to look at her new niche through the lens of her academic background in anthropology. As she analyzes the tribe’s mating and migration patterns, childrearing practices, fetish objects, physical adornment practices, magical purifying rituals, bonding rites, and odd realities like sex segregation, she finds it easier to fit in and even enjoy her new life. Then one day, Wednesday’s world is turned upside down, and she finds out there’s much more to the women who she’s secretly been calling Manhattan Geishas.
“Think Gossip Girl, but with a sociological study of the parents” (InStyle.com), Wednesday’s memoir is absolutely “eye-popping” (People). Primates of Park Avenue lifts a veil on a secret, elite world within a world—the strange, exotic, and utterly foreign and fascinating life of privileged Manhattan motherhood.
When Martin, a social researcher with a background in anthropology, moves from her laid-back West Village neighborhood to the rarefied atmosphere of Manhattan's Upper East Side to be closer to her in-laws, she finds herself in a world of the 1% that is often wholly unwelcoming, inhabited by the noxious and entitled. Though she's definitely not poor, Martin's also not on the level of her new neighbors, who vacation in Aspen for every winter break and think nothing of shelling out $25,000 on kids' finger paintings at a school function. In this memoir, which has been the subject of controversy, Martin approaches her new environs anthropologically, studying the mean mommies and their hierarchies as they relate to each other (silently and intensely at their beloved Physique 57 classes, in which their determination to get cut and look ever younger is palpable) and outsiders like Martin (with hostility, the cut direct, and sometimes outright aggression). However, when she suffers an unexpected tragedy, she receives nothing but kindness from some of the women and gains perspective on what is frivolous and what is truly meaningful. The Midwest-raised Martin is easy for readers to sympathize with as she attempts to find new friends while old ones drift away, and hopes to not be treated as a playground pariah while securing playdates for her son. It's hard, though, to care about her neighbors and even about Martin when she finds herself coveting an $8,000 Berkin bag in order to show dominance within the pack.
I was surprised to read some negative reviews of this book and wondered if it was because people tend to be way more critical of people who have money. Regardless, I found the book to be a fascinating take on the view that we are merely highly evolved mammals, not that much different than our subprimate relatives. She supports her theories with interesting examples and astute observations and insights into social interaction and behavior that we all experience similarly, despite different socio-economic circumstances. Highly entertaining read!
ZzzZz...boring ripoff of "The Nanny Diaries"
Okay...was really looking forward to this book after reading the NYT excerpts. All I can say now is they definitely excerpted the best parts.
This book is SUCH a snooze, a total (bad) ripoff of "The Nanny Diaries (author completely stole the primate/anthropologist angle, but whatever...) and just...boring. I found myself skipping entire sections when she would describe the behavior of monkeys in relation to UES women. They dragged on and on, and really, are we here for the monkeys? No.
Also way too much talk about the author herself, and not in an entertaining way at all.
The women she describes are not given names. They are lumped together and it is difficult to connect with the story for this reason. Would have much preferred a specific story with names changed...but because the author is a part of the world she describes, she was too scared to do that. LAME.
Don't waste your money. If you're interested in this world, read "The Nanny Diaries," which is hilarious and touching. This is just bad.
Light on science, heavy on self adulation