The weather is insanely hot in my town this week and I have been melting, instead of reading. I know, I know, I run a blog that’s primarily centered on books so I should really be on top of this sort of thing, right? Wrong. It’s hot. All I can focus on is not melting.
So, instead of talking about some of the books I’m (trying) to read this week, I wanted to go back through my recent reads and discuss a book I recently listened to on audiobook. This was another that I checked out through the Libby App, and one that I chose for a couple of reasons: first off, it was featured and available and I wanted something to listen to right away, and second, I’d heard lots of good reviews from people I follow on social media.
Reader, I was extremely disappointed with this one.
The memoir, GIRL, WASH YOUR FACE: Stop Believing the Lies about Who You Are So You Can Become Who You Were Meant to Be (yes, that is the full title) by Rachel Hollis did not live up to my expectations at all. I went into this book with the expectation that I would put it down—or, in this case, hit pause—and feel empowered and confident in myself.
Rachel Hollis does not achieve this for everyone. Hollis is extremely privileged, and that fact becomes more and more glaringly obvious the further into the book I got. She talks about following your dreams and taking the leap of faith and that’s all well and great, but her anecdotes for this inspiring, though somewhat cliched, advice just take away from the message.
I had a few major issues with this book, starting with the chapter in which she tells us about her first relationship. This relationship was with a much older guy who she met through work, who she lied to about her age because she was so young (I think she was 19 or something at the time—too young to get into a bar, but somehow still able to thanks to her older sister’s ID). This is the same guy who broke up with her the day before Thanksgiving, left her alone to be with her family mourning their relationship over the holiday, and then showed up at her apartment the next night—after being told to stay away—because his car broke down nearby. Reader, she married him. And she announced this fact so proudly, I literally had to rewind and listen to it again—I was sure I’d missed something. But no, she married this guy who clearly took advantage of her throughout their relationship and now has multiple kids with him. I hope they’ve grown since this rocky start to their relationship but… yikes.
I will add that, while doing some Google searches to brush up on some facts for this post, I came across an article talking about how Rachel and her husband, Dave, have recently decided to split up. So there’s that.
I also hated the way she talked about sex and body image. Her chapter on sex in her marriage talked about the expectation women are faced with—in any romantic relationship—to be ready whenever their partner is. It’s a harmful expectation but most, if not all, of us have felt it at one point or another. I was hopeful when she started talking about this subject, but she didn’t really offer more than “Yeah, this happens but I just pushed through it!” (That’s paraphrasing, of course, but it’s not too far off). And her thoughts on her body, dieting and weight loss were concerning at best and extremely harmful at worst. I am a plus sized woman. I can be healthy and fat. That’s not a bad thing, but she certainly made me feel like less than because I feed myself when my body needs food. That part bothered me quite a bit.
But nothing, absolutely nothing, in her book got to me more than her chapter on adoption. She talks about her journey with her husband to adopt after having three sons of their own. Specifically, she talks about how they wanted to adopt a little girl from another country because—ready for this?—they didn’t want the biological parents to be able to ask for their child back.
W H A T ????
I damn near stopped right here because that is just so awful, so privileged, so heartless—I was pissed. But I pressed on, because I’d come this far and god, how much worse could it get? Thankfully not much worse, but man… who openly admits that? Rachel Hollis, that’s who.
Anyways, she recounts a story of taking in two foster babies—twins whose parents were struggling with drug addiction. The mother had used while pregnant and so the babies were suffering withdrawal symptoms, but nevertheless Rachel and her husband took them in… only for the biological parents to demand their children back shortly after. I like to think that was a bit of karma for their intent to adopt from another country to avoid this sort of thing, but who am I to tell. After five years of searching for a baby, they finally met the mother of their daughter Noah. I did read her adoption story on Rachel’s blog and it is a sweet story, but nothing will get the bad taste out of my mouth from their original plan to find a baby from another country to keep its birth parents away from it.
All in all, this book left me more angry and disappointed than empowered. Yes, Rachel’s message holds true. We are in charge of our own happiness. We are capable of doing amazing things if we put our mind to it. If faith is your thing, you should lean into it when you’re struggling. However, just because the message is there doesn’t mean it was effective.
I gave this book two stars on Goodreads, but really it’s more like a 1.5. The message is well-intentioned, but this book just misses the mark by so much. It’s a shame, really, because this had so much potential and just fell so flat. I really wouldn’t recommend this to anyone, unless you’re into books that make you want to scream.