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Primates of Park Avenue

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Like an urban Dian Fossey, Wednesday Martin decodes the primate social behaviors of Upper East Side mothers in a brilliantly original and witty memoir about her adventures assimilating into that most secretive and elite tribe. After marrying a man from the Upper East Side and moving to the neighborhood, Wednesday Martin struggled to fit in. Drawing on her background in anth Like an urban Dian Fossey, Wednesday Martin decodes the primate social behaviors of Upper East Side mothers in a brilliantly original and witty memoir about her adventures assimilating into that most secretive and elite tribe. After marrying a man from the Upper East Side and moving to the neighborhood, Wednesday Martin struggled to fit in. Drawing on her background in anthropology and primatology, she tried looking at her new world through that lens, and suddenly things fell into place. She understood the other mothers' snobbiness at school drop-off when she compared them to olive baboons. Her obsessional quest for a Hermes Birkin handbag made sense when she realized other females wielded them to establish dominance in their troop. And so she analyzed tribal migration patterns, display rituals, physical adornment, mutilation, mating practices, extra-pair copulation, and more. Her conclusions are smart, thought-provoking, and hilariously unexpected. Every city has its Upper East Side, and in Wednesday's memoir, readers everywhere will recognize the strange cultural codes of powerful social hierarchies and the compelling desire to climb them. They will also see that Upper East Side mothers want the same things for their children that all mothers want: safety, happiness, and success;and not even sky-high penthouses and chauffeured SUVs can protect this ecologically released tribe from the universal experiences of anxiety and loss. When Wednesday's life turns upside down, she learns how deep the bonds of female friendship really are. Intelligent, funny, and heartfelt, Primates of Park Avenue lifts a veil on a secret, elite world within a world: the exotic, fascinating, and strangely familiar culture of privileged Manhattan motherhood.


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Like an urban Dian Fossey, Wednesday Martin decodes the primate social behaviors of Upper East Side mothers in a brilliantly original and witty memoir about her adventures assimilating into that most secretive and elite tribe. After marrying a man from the Upper East Side and moving to the neighborhood, Wednesday Martin struggled to fit in. Drawing on her background in anth Like an urban Dian Fossey, Wednesday Martin decodes the primate social behaviors of Upper East Side mothers in a brilliantly original and witty memoir about her adventures assimilating into that most secretive and elite tribe. After marrying a man from the Upper East Side and moving to the neighborhood, Wednesday Martin struggled to fit in. Drawing on her background in anthropology and primatology, she tried looking at her new world through that lens, and suddenly things fell into place. She understood the other mothers' snobbiness at school drop-off when she compared them to olive baboons. Her obsessional quest for a Hermes Birkin handbag made sense when she realized other females wielded them to establish dominance in their troop. And so she analyzed tribal migration patterns, display rituals, physical adornment, mutilation, mating practices, extra-pair copulation, and more. Her conclusions are smart, thought-provoking, and hilariously unexpected. Every city has its Upper East Side, and in Wednesday's memoir, readers everywhere will recognize the strange cultural codes of powerful social hierarchies and the compelling desire to climb them. They will also see that Upper East Side mothers want the same things for their children that all mothers want: safety, happiness, and success;and not even sky-high penthouses and chauffeured SUVs can protect this ecologically released tribe from the universal experiences of anxiety and loss. When Wednesday's life turns upside down, she learns how deep the bonds of female friendship really are. Intelligent, funny, and heartfelt, Primates of Park Avenue lifts a veil on a secret, elite world within a world: the exotic, fascinating, and strangely familiar culture of privileged Manhattan motherhood.

30 review for Primates of Park Avenue

  1. 4 out of 5

    Chantel Worley McCray

    This woman moved to the Upper East Side from Downtown in her head to toe Marc Jacobs and realized it was going to be SO HARD to find an apartment on Park Avenue so her kids could go to a good public school! She pretended she was studying the mega rich & superficial stay-at-home moms of her new neighborhood from an anthropological viewpoint, but really she was dying to fit in and be just like them. But it was SO HARD not having as much money as everyone around her! She could only spend $600 on a This woman moved to the Upper East Side from Downtown in her head to toe Marc Jacobs and realized it was going to be SO HARD to find an apartment on Park Avenue so her kids could go to a good public school! She pretended she was studying the mega rich & superficial stay-at-home moms of her new neighborhood from an anthropological viewpoint, but really she was dying to fit in and be just like them. But it was SO HARD not having as much money as everyone around her! She could only spend $600 on a pair of shoes from the SALE rack at Barneys when she needed a new outfit for a low key lunch! When describing the power that full time nannies hold over her and other mothers who DO NOT WORK she wrote, "We could just fire them....but then what?" Well.... you could not go get a blowout and go shopping every day, just until you could find someone else to take care of your children full time so you can get back to the very important and difficult work of getting drunk on white wine at lunch and showing off your gold Birkin bag. Just an idea. I'm surprised that person you pay $200 an hour to organize your apartment and life didn't come up with that one. Look, I love a good gossipy memoir (which this is) as much as anyone; but I will enjoy your gossip a lot more if 1- you don't pretend you're an intellectual, 2- you don't whine about your hardships when you have a whole closet just for your handbags, and full time staff so you don't have to raise your own kids, and 3- you don't pretend you're not just as stupid as the people you're writing about. You're just like them. It was still entertaining though. A love to hate kind of thing. :)

  2. 5 out of 5

    Petra X back to reality & the diet!

    The author calls models who strut the streets like they think they are somebody, 'professional narcissists'. I love that. Best quote in the book. However she went on for a whole chapter on the importance of owning an Hermes Birkin handbag if you want to prove you have "arrived" gaining acceptance from some women and causing envy in others. She says all women want one but one woman in a million pretends they don't. Actually they don't. I don't like celebrity accessories. The Kardashians, the Beckh The author calls models who strut the streets like they think they are somebody, 'professional narcissists'. I love that. Best quote in the book. However she went on for a whole chapter on the importance of owning an Hermes Birkin handbag if you want to prove you have "arrived" gaining acceptance from some women and causing envy in others. She says all women want one but one woman in a million pretends they don't. Actually they don't. I don't like celebrity accessories. The Kardashians, the Beckhams and all the Essex WAGS just serve to put me off things like Louboutins, even the really good (and cheap) Chinese imitation ones! If I was ever lucky enough, like the author's husband (not her), to actually have $30K (including the 'mark-up' for not going on the waiting list for up to three years) to waste on a handbag, then I hope I would check myself and realise that I needed to be living in the real world. The author is ok with knocking all the other Manhattan Mommies down to size when it suits her. It doesn't suit about the Birkin handbag because that will prove her husband is Very Successful treating his wife to such baubles and that will give her brownie points with the MM who don't have much respect for her. The Birkin will change all that! (It does). It was a five-star. But a whole chapter on the Birkin handbag.... yawn. _______ Notes on reading the book: It's entertaining reading her own struggles to fit in with the uber-rich and status-obsessed women of the Upper East Side in New York. In an effort to make sense of their senseless lives she applies her knowledge of anthropology and primateology. This is not always to the benefit of the women as she discusses a great ape who connived her and her children's way right to the top of their social tree. Creatures of instinct we are, some are closer to their roots that's all. There is one error. It isn't an error, it's just something she hadn't studied and so didn't know. She is discussing the fact that women have no identifies outside of motherhood and are known as Jamie's mother, Brett's mother, Alice-Elaine's mother etc. She says that they refer to each other that way as in, "Have you invited Louise's mother? She says there is in no other society is this subsuming of identity to that of the child. Maybe anthropologists don't do field work on small islands in the Caribbean. Where I live when my son went to school I was known as Daniel's Mummy. Children in the street would politely say, "Good morning Daniel's mummy". Other parents called me that or Daniel's mother. I also didn't know their names, just their children's. I imagine this is common across much of the Caribbean. I'm reading this book with a slight side-eye wondering what the future holds. When my son finishes law school he has a job with Goldman Sachs. He said that come September we will be looking for a 2-bedroom apartment in New York. It isn't going to be the Upper East Side on an entry-level salary, but... His future boss lives there, my son is going to look to him for what he might one day achieve. I would just never fit in. I don't own a single sheath dress, I only wear jeans. I don't have designer anythings except bags, and they are almost all Betsey Johnson from TJ Maxx. I'll use this book as my guide book if we ever make it there go. A question because I only know NY as a tourist. I have a friend who lives on Fifth Avenue in the very low numbers. What area is that?

  3. 5 out of 5

    Reverenddave

    I am baffled by the positives review of this book. Its observations of the uber-rich upper-east side Manhattanites arent particularly insightful, the details generally uninteresting and the framing device of an urban Jane Goodall, which has been so praised, felt forced, pretentious and a transparent effort to distance the author from the culture she's cataloging. I am baffled by the positives review of this book. Its observations of the uber-rich upper-east side Manhattanites arent particularly insightful, the details generally uninteresting and the framing device of an urban Jane Goodall, which has been so praised, felt forced, pretentious and a transparent effort to distance the author from the culture she's cataloging.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Barbara

    Author Wednesday Martin Living a sumptuous life among the millionaires and billionaires of Manhattan's Upper East Side may sound like a dream come true, but it's tougher than you might think. Wednesday Martin learned this when she moved to upper Manhattan with her husband and toddler son, thinking this was a great place to raise a family. Martin immersed herself in the world of 'Upper East Side mommies' for six years, and relates her experiences in this book. Martin, who grew up in Michigan, is un Author Wednesday Martin Living a sumptuous life among the millionaires and billionaires of Manhattan's Upper East Side may sound like a dream come true, but it's tougher than you might think. Wednesday Martin learned this when she moved to upper Manhattan with her husband and toddler son, thinking this was a great place to raise a family. Martin immersed herself in the world of 'Upper East Side mommies' for six years, and relates her experiences in this book. Martin, who grew up in Michigan, is uniquely equipped to write about Upper East Side culture since she has a Ph.D. in comparative literature and cultural studies, and did doctoral work in early psychoanalysis and anthropology. Martin's first hurdle was finding an apartment on the Upper East Side, a task that required her to engage a buyer's broker and don the appropriate 'uniform' - a demure sheath dress; Agnès B or French Sole flats; a ladylike handbag; and a sleek ponytail. Appropriate appearance is necessary to appease the seller and/or co-op board who must approve your residency. Martin and her husband eventually settled on a relatively modest condop (combination condominium/co-op) in an area with good public schools. An appropriate outfit for apartment hunting on the Upper East Side The Upper East Side women who belong to the "haves, have mores, and have mosts" are invariably dressed to the nines, whether they're going to an event, running to the corner market for milk, or dropping their kids off at school. Doing ANYTHING requires a perfect blow out, flawless make-up, designer clothes, and probably stilettos. Upper East Side mommies going out and about And - contrary to what you might think - the women who are the most carefully put together, and the most beautifully turned out, generally have the most children. Martin writes, "the first time I saw a perfectly coifed, perfectly dressed petite brunette with her two nannies hauling her brood of half a dozen into an upscale clothing boutique, it was so unlike anything I'd seen before that I could hardly process it. And it turned, out she wasn't a rarity in this new niche....not by a long shot. Massive families were everywhere." The most chic Upper East Side mommies have lots of children Once Martin got her son into one of the area's 'best' nursery schools - by getting influential friends and relatives to pull strings - she tried to make friends for herself and arrange playdates for her little boy. This was harder than it sounds because the other mothers were "mean girl moms." Upscale Nursery School Martin notes, "They all seemed to know one another somehow from before..... and they huddled up and looked right through me." Texts, emails, and phone calls to arrange play dates for her son were ignored, and when Martin tried to follow up in school hallways, the mothers put her off or changed the subject. Martin had a hard time making friends with the 'mean moms' It wasn't until Martin got acquainted with an "alpha dad" at a party - who suggested a play date with his child - that the ice was finally broken. Once the playdate logjam was breached, Martin's son acquired playmates, and was even invited to romp on a private plane. Martin observes, "Childhood on the Upper East Side is unusual by just about anyone's standards. There are drivers and nannies and helicopter rides to The Hamptons. There are the 'right' music classes for 2-year-olds; tutors for 3-year-olds - to prep them for kindergarten entrance exams and interviews; and playdate consultants for 4-year-olds - who don't know how to play because they don't have time to play because they have so many enrichment classes: French, Mandarin, Little Learners and cooking classes, as well as golf, tennis, and voice lessons after pre-school." Kids have music classes Kids have cooking classes Kids get tennis lessons Kids get golf lessons As for the mothers, "There are wardrobe consultants to help moms buy the right clothes for themselves for school drop off and pick up; there are teetering high heels and breathtaking J. Mendel and Tom Ford furs at playgrounds and at birthday parties that cost $5,000 and up in apartments so big and with ceilings so high that can and do have full size bouncy castles inside." Mommies look elegant for school drop off and pick up If childhood on the Upper East Side is unusual, motherhood is beyond bizarre. There is a constant quest for 'gets' that define life for the privileged and perfect mommies, like fabulous penthouse apartments; kids being admitted to schools with elite exmissions; and acquisition of expensive baubles, like the Hermes Birkin bag that Martin craved - to raise her status among the local glitterati. To obtain a fabulous - and phenomenally expensive - Birkin bag, a customer must put her/his name on a years-long waiting list, and Martin was lucky that her husband was able to find one during a business trip to Tokyo. (FYI: An internet article says Hermes Birkin bags range from $12,000 to more than $200,000.) Hermes Birkin bag Then there are the cults of Physique 57 and Soul Cycle, where women wearing Lululemon athletic apparel exercise obsessively to perfect themselves. Physique 57 Soul Cycle Lululemon is the preferred athletic wear Moms also share insider trading tips, "like how to hire a black market Disney guide with a disability pass in order to circumvent all the lines." And there's also the help. Martin notes, "An Upper East Side mommy's identity also emerges from the fraught, complicated relationships between herself and the women she hires to help her raise her children and run her home(s)." Originally, Martin's goal "was to assimilate while keeping a distance from the stress and competitiveness of Upper East Side mommy culture." She writes, "I figured my background in social research and anthropology would help me stay sane and grounded as I made a place for my children and myself in a world that sometimes felt inhospitable. But like anthropologists the world over I eventually found myself going native." In other words, Martin - who gave birth to another son while living in upper Manhattan - became a typical Upper East Side mommy....dressing, acting, and thinking like the women around her. She writes: "I wanted a comfortable curated life. I wanted a killer body, and beautiful clothing, and shoes by Dolce and Gabbana and Prada.....and the kind of great hair color that required the expensive tending to it every other month. I wanted a house at the beach.....and unlike many of my Upper East Side girlfriends I also wanted to work, to write things I was proud of. Wednesday Martin went native But like them I wanted to be a good wife and like them I wanted most of all to be a good mother. Not a good enough mother but one who did everything I was supposed to do, everything I possibly could do for my children." Wednesday Martin with her husband Joel Moser Wednesday Martin with her husband and children Martin's acculturation sped up after the natives accepted her and she was invited to a 'girls' night in' at the home of a woman named Rebecca. Wanting to fit in and not stand out Martin wore "a pair of bright pink snakeskin pattern skinny trousers of stretchy denim; a simple boxy white tee shirt with an embroidered red and black flower front and center; and a bright green Chanel knock-off jacket with fringe at the wrists and along the front placket." Martin knew "nothing about his outfit would seem over the top to the women at Rebecca's." For shoes Martin went to Barney's and got "Christian Louboutin open-toed platform slingback mules of black suede with red and pink stripes - like a piece of candy for the feet." Martin remarks that beauty isn't cheap, and it's women that bear the costs. Just for fun, Martin and her friend Candace estimated an Upper East Side woman's yearly budget for personal upkeep. This would include: • hair and scalp (cuts, colors, blowouts, stylists, consultants) • face (botox; restylane; fillers; peals; facials; brows; laser treatments; skincare products; makeup) • body (exercise classes; personal trainer; nutritionist; juice cleanses; mani-pedis; massages; spray tans; spa getaways; plastic surgery) • wardrobe (fall/winter clothing; spring/summer clothing; resort and vacation clothing; shoes and boots; bags). Martin and Candace estimated that all this would cost "$95,000 on the low end just to be beautiful enough to be in the game." Oddly enough, Upper East Side women's attention to appearance is directed more at other women than men. Martin observes, "Women are generally cloistered from men. At dinner parties, men sometimes sit at separate tables in separate rooms. Women say it's more fun this way, and the men prefer it." These wealthy females (especially those who don't have jobs) are marooned in their sex segregated world on their boards; charity luncheons; and Hampton homes. At dinner parties, men and women might sit at separate tables All this has a severe downside. Martin observes, "World wide ethnographic data shows that the more sex segregated a society, the lower the status of women." Among other things, this gives men leeway to conduct extramarital affairs, often with no consequences. Martin writes, "[Upper East Side] women feel they can't leave and uproot their kids, and they are uniquely dependent. They need men for financial support: food and shelter for themselves and their children." (My view: The women could leave if they were willing to adjust their lifestyle.) There are other drawbacks as well. Martin reports, "The flip side of this pressure to be a perfect mother and a perfectly fit, perfectly dressed, perfectly sexy woman stress many to breaking point. To remedy this, they turn to alcohol, prescription drugs, flyaway parties with girlfriends to Vegas, St. Barts and Paris on their private planes; compulsive exercise and self care; and raw organic cold-pressed juice fasts are big." Stress and anxiety can lead to excessive drinking Cold juice fast Martin wraps up by describing a sad occurrence that elicited caring and empathy from (at least some) Upper East Side mommies. Martin's research ended when her children were accepted at schools on the Upper West Side, and the family moved across town. Footnote: Sadly, after carrying her Birkin everywhere all the time Martin had to retire it because of a persistent numbness in her arm....it was too heavy.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Miranda Reads

    Monkey see, Monkey do We follow Wednesday Martin as she first struggles and then excels at fitting in with the other rich New York Mommies. It's a jungle out there. If we take all her musings at face value, she's lucky to have survived so long with such peers. There's far too many unsaid rules and regulations for any sane person. Yet, as she describes it, no matter who our peers are, we always feel the need to fit in. It's a primate thing. And thus with that justification, we watch as Martin begin Monkey see, Monkey do We follow Wednesday Martin as she first struggles and then excels at fitting in with the other rich New York Mommies. It's a jungle out there. If we take all her musings at face value, she's lucky to have survived so long with such peers. There's far too many unsaid rules and regulations for any sane person. Yet, as she describes it, no matter who our peers are, we always feel the need to fit in. It's a primate thing. And thus with that justification, we watch as Martin begins to slowly but surely become part of the in-crowd. She describes her descent into New York Mommie hell with humor and wit...though about halfway through the book, it did get a bit old. (Aside: There was a lot of marketing for birkin bags, it even had me googling one. And then had me jumping away from the keyboards when I realized the associated price tag). At first, this book seemed to be a funny, new spin on the whole 'sociologist studies the rich and slowly becomes immersed in their culture' however around halfway through this book it became, 'why is there so much about these birkin bags and spin classes? Isn't there more to life?' This was a fun read, but I recommend it only for days when you want some light reading. Audiobook Comments No complaints about the audio other than this autobiography was read by Madeleine Maby - not the author. YouTube | Blog | Instagram | Twitter | Facebook | Snapchat @miranda_reads

  6. 4 out of 5

    Esil

    It would be easy to trash Primates of Park Avenue because it deals with the crazy neurotic world of the over privileged in the Upper East Side in Manhattan. But I really enjoyed reading this book. It's a clever concept, and it's well executed. Originally from the mid-west, the author marries an obviously high income producing man who was born and bred in Manhattan. After her first son is born and they move to the Upper East Side, the author sets off to understand the world she now lives in so th It would be easy to trash Primates of Park Avenue because it deals with the crazy neurotic world of the over privileged in the Upper East Side in Manhattan. But I really enjoyed reading this book. It's a clever concept, and it's well executed. Originally from the mid-west, the author marries an obviously high income producing man who was born and bred in Manhattan. After her first son is born and they move to the Upper East Side, the author sets off to understand the world she now lives in so that she can figure out how to raise her children in this environment. The book is partially a playful pseudo anthropological study of the environment/partially memoir. My 4 star rating reflects the entertainment value of the book. The author presents the world she finds herself in with enough humour and self-deprecation that she doesn't come across as taking herself too seriously. At times, the book gets a bit more serious without compromising its readability. For example, she does note on several occasions that this is a world in which gender roles are strictly defined, and she ponders the root and consequences of this retrograde state of affairs. Also, towards the end she spends one chapter recounting a very sad event in her life, how it affected her and how the women around her reacted. The tone changes and I found it impossible not to be drawn in and become teary. Ultimately this leads to be a bit of an overly tidy sentimental ending. But other than this attempt to tie off the book a bit too neatly, this was a good read. I can't imagine this book is for everyone and it certainly lends itself to easy criticism -- it does depict a creepy world filled with ridiculous self imposed pressures -- but it's very readable and generally does very well what the author set out to do. Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for an opportunity to read an advance copy.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jenna

    Thank you to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster for providing free access to an ARC in exchange for an honest review. I don't think it's ever been much of a secret that very rich people do some crazy shit, and these days, even with assiduous attempts at avoidance, it seems even more difficult than ever to escape the endless bombardment of information about the lifestyles of the rich and famous. And yet -- TV shows and books like this one somehow still keep showing up. I can only assume that means the Thank you to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster for providing free access to an ARC in exchange for an honest review. I don't think it's ever been much of a secret that very rich people do some crazy shit, and these days, even with assiduous attempts at avoidance, it seems even more difficult than ever to escape the endless bombardment of information about the lifestyles of the rich and famous. And yet -- TV shows and books like this one somehow still keep showing up. I can only assume that means there's still a market out there somewhere, even though I'm personally super grossed-out by and bored of all this stuff and I don't think I'm totally alone in that. So, if your curiosity remains as yet unsatiated despite the seeming glut of documentation on this topic, or if you just really enjoy learning about people who have the resources and inclination to go to absurd lengths in pursuit of prestige and materialistic acquisition, you may well enjoy this book. Take a moment to reflect on your best guess as to what types of information this book conveys. It's probably safe to say, Bingo! - you guessed it! Yes, there's a section on acquiring a prestigious Manhattan condo/co-op. (The requisite Hamptons vacation property is also referenced.) Yes, there's a section about getting the kids into the right preschool. Yeah, a whole pivotal chapter on getting the Birkin Bag. Yup, a chapter about Soul Cycle and barre classes, including special bonus info on appropriate exercise attire (Lululemon) and the importance of supplementary plastic surgery and regular salon blowouts. You get the idea: no surprises here, despite the veneer or pretense of this work being some kind of nouveau anthropological study. I "learned" maybe as much about anthropology as I did watching "Mean Girls," and since the clever Tina Fey and other talents aren't at the helm of this effort, I was less entertained and moved as well as less informed. Most problematically with regard to the superficial "anthropological" framing of what actually turns out to be just another Upper East Side mom/housewife memoir, the author of this work is not a "participant-observer," but rather an admitted full-on participant in the culture. Even though she states she's initially conflicted about going along with the high society conventions she describes, she ends up following them pretty unquestioningly, and fairly uncritically, to the letter, and endeavoring to fit in "for the good of her husband and children," to paraphrase her reasoning. That's her prerogative; certainly we all want the best for our families, and in itself, this doesn't make her a bad person. However, in that case, she can't have it both ways in the manner that the book's premise attempts to make possible. After all, the author depicts a world in which grown and supposedly sophisticated and accomplished women snarl and glare and yell at each other and flip each other off, bump into one another purposely on the street, practically run over each other with giant SUVs, blatantly ignore one another even when a hello is offered, outright verbally assault one another during the course of routine daily transactions, and otherwise psychologically abuse and harass each other. So if this author does indeed "know better," which is what she starts out asking us to believe, then it becomes difficult to forgive her for being okay with, imitating, perpetuating, rationalizing, justifying the horrible and ridiculous behaviors she describes. But since the author wants to succeed in this society over the long term, she cannot call them out on their shit in any truly critical way. She basically just says, Aw. Look how crazy and cute it is that they "have" to do all this. You know, to survive. In the end, after throwing tons of time and money and effort at these grown-up Mean Girls, the author does make a few friends who reveal some basic human decency and humanity to her when she experiences a serious tragedy. But is that really enough? What's the overall message?? This is all quite different from "Queen Bees and Wannabees," the basis for "Mean Girls" (to which this book's marketing and publicity would, erroneously, have it compared). "Queen Bees" was another socio-cultural work aimed at a popular audience, but one that (along with many similar, worthy others) was written with a more legitimately scholarly (e.g., human understanding and betterment) mission: TO HELP PARENTS AND ALLIES SUPPORT AND EMPOWER YOUNG WOMEN IN DEALING CONFIDENTLY AND ETHICALLY WITH UNHEALTHY SOCIAL FORCES, INFLUENCES, AND INTERACTIONS - so that these young women don't just oppressively and in an unchecked way bully one another into becoming depressed, suicidal, or just plain Fellow Bully A-Holes. In stark contrast, "Primates" just marvels at what extreme and dumb and misguided and jerky stuff the rich do - then shows how someone with the will and means to also do this stuff and the power of basic observation can indeed do it right alongside the very "best" of them, to the point of assimilating into and thus condoning and expanding the culture without transforming or improving it.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Elyse Walters

    Looking for a new audiobook on my app from the library while being out on the trail, I came across this book. I had remembered seeing the cover - but couldn't for the life of me remember what it was about - good - bad - or indifferent. So...I just downloaded and began listening. Aw... It's a memoir. "Ok, good deal....I've had good luck with audiobook's that are memoirs". I'm thinking, "I've experienced audiobooks can enhance a memoir". I enjoyed the prologue and the first chapter. I was engaged in Looking for a new audiobook on my app from the library while being out on the trail, I came across this book. I had remembered seeing the cover - but couldn't for the life of me remember what it was about - good - bad - or indifferent. So...I just downloaded and began listening. Aw... It's a memoir. "Ok, good deal....I've had good luck with audiobook's that are memoirs". I'm thinking, "I've experienced audiobooks can enhance a memoir". I enjoyed the prologue and the first chapter. I was engaged in the author's story from moving to the Midwest to New York....her personal background history .....'her' childhood interest .. a few stories about her mother....her education ...and interest in anthropology and sociology. It's fun to listen to people share about themselves ... and I thought Wednesday Martin was bright, warm, and easy going to listen to ( well the narrator was easy to listen to).... BUT.... After awhile things got detailed which I found boring. Every little stereotype that we can imagine about the ultra-rich was mentioned... Play dates for the children... Clothes for the mothers...lots of 'mention-comparison' about east side, west side, left, and right sides, the cliques, child care, spas, parties, catering, where to shop and how much to drop ( spend)... etc. just began to get tedious. It was enjoyable for what it was - for awhile--but I became satiated with the topic. I was just done. So... After 2.5 hours of listening .. I felt I got the general idea of this book... and was ready to move on to something else.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Doris Dvonch

    This book made me practice how long I can sustain an eye-roll. Whole chapters are devoted to exercise classes (Barre vs. SoulCycle), mean mommies, getting a Birkin Bag, "settling" for a Park Avenue condo - all told with no irony and no humor. I was expecting some juicy tidbits a-la Nanny Diaries but all I got was a mindless plea to feel sorry for the ultra-rich white privileged women of the UES. The book bills itself a pop anthropological study which in the end kind of infuriated me because the This book made me practice how long I can sustain an eye-roll. Whole chapters are devoted to exercise classes (Barre vs. SoulCycle), mean mommies, getting a Birkin Bag, "settling" for a Park Avenue condo - all told with no irony and no humor. I was expecting some juicy tidbits a-la Nanny Diaries but all I got was a mindless plea to feel sorry for the ultra-rich white privileged women of the UES. The book bills itself a pop anthropological study which in the end kind of infuriated me because the author thinks that UES women are worthy of "studying" and are "trapped" like animals. This is how the author, who is an ultra-rich white privileged woman herself, justifies her existence as a hyper-educated SAHM. Just sad. It wasn't even worth a skim.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Linda Robertson

    Premise of the book was interesting, but I found the author to be rather precious. She went "native" early on and it was difficult to maintain the illusion of being an anthropologist, studying the very wealthy. I had little sympathy for any of the characters including the author. Women who must depend on their husband's status, to determine their own status is so over. Didn't we get past that in the 1970's? Can't believe they still exist. The point of the book is that they are terribly stressed o Premise of the book was interesting, but I found the author to be rather precious. She went "native" early on and it was difficult to maintain the illusion of being an anthropologist, studying the very wealthy. I had little sympathy for any of the characters including the author. Women who must depend on their husband's status, to determine their own status is so over. Didn't we get past that in the 1970's? Can't believe they still exist. The point of the book is that they are terribly stressed out because their privileged world can evaporate with a divorce or a job loss. I kept hoping there was more to the book and there simply wasn't. Her interview on NPR made the book sound interesting. Felt like I wasted my time.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Ivonne Rovira

    Trained as an anthropologist and primatologist, author Wednesday Martin turned her sights on the other mothers she met in her sojourn on New York City’s ritzy Upper East Side. While this nonfiction book has a twee beginning, it quickly morphs into a fascinating look at the social-climbing, sleek, entitlement-fueled Queen Bees of what’s long been called the Silk Stocking District. When I read The Nanny Diaries, I had thought that the social-climbing, self-centered mother in that book was an outli Trained as an anthropologist and primatologist, author Wednesday Martin turned her sights on the other mothers she met in her sojourn on New York City’s ritzy Upper East Side. While this nonfiction book has a twee beginning, it quickly morphs into a fascinating look at the social-climbing, sleek, entitlement-fueled Queen Bees of what’s long been called the Silk Stocking District. When I read The Nanny Diaries, I had thought that the social-climbing, self-centered mother in that book was an outlier, an isolated sociopath cocooned by the money and privilege bestowed by her millionaire husband. Apparently, I didn’t know the half of it! Not only are there more svelte, status-conscious, perfectly coifed and dressed, über-aggressive women in ZIP Code 10021, but their behavior rivals that of the most insular of baboon tribes — worse than anything I would have imagined! Martin describes their rituals, desires, and fears as if she were Margaret Mead, Franz Boas, or Jane Goodall, and it’s much more fascinating reading than you’d think. From the obligatory Chanel bag to the panic of socializing with someone not a social equal to the politics of play dates and preschool to the heavily gendered nature of the lives of these Upper East Side women, readers will gain the benefit of Martin’s expert eye. And Martin explains why this gendered dichotomy reveals that, for all their airs, these stay-at-home helicopter moms have very little real power. As a New York native (from a vastly lower socio-economic background, of course), I never knew about these creatures living in what was my own backyard. While I don’t envy Martin’s six years of living at 900 Park Avenue, I’m still glad that, for a little while, I got to visit the Upper East Side zoo; however, as with the zoo, I felt a bit of relief in finishing the book (view spoiler)[that Martin got to relocate to the more egalitarian and easy-going Upper West Side (hide spoiler)] and going home and getting away from all the nasty sights and sounds of “the pettier games of Manhattan motherhood.” In the interest of full disclosure, I received this book from NetGalley and Simon & Schuster in exchange for an honest review.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Liza

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I was born and spent the first 11 years of my life on the "wrong" side of Lexington Avenue on the Upper East Side, so take my griping with a grain of salt. I apparently know not of what I speak. This book was atrocious, and the so-called "Primates of Park Avenue" described therein are terrible. At one point Martin opines that these women (and she herself is one) have only the illusion of choice--that they must keep up appearances because they have no economic independence and are therefore taxed I was born and spent the first 11 years of my life on the "wrong" side of Lexington Avenue on the Upper East Side, so take my griping with a grain of salt. I apparently know not of what I speak. This book was atrocious, and the so-called "Primates of Park Avenue" described therein are terrible. At one point Martin opines that these women (and she herself is one) have only the illusion of choice--that they must keep up appearances because they have no economic independence and are therefore taxed with a life of grueling workouts, bringing up bebe, and using their husbands' credit cards to buy all the corresponding accouterments, like a $10,000 Birkin (that's a year's rent for me, but sure, Martin, go ahead and justify that purchase). Bullshit. They absolutely chose that existence, and shame on them for doing so. I will not shed any tears, especially when you consider the people they use and abuse to make such an existence possible. I'm sorry that they're so insecure and vapid that they believe such a life will bring them happiness, and I feel sorry for their children and hope they grow up to reject their parents' values. This is a world in which differences are feared. There was not a single mention of race in the entire book. The thought of having a child require OT is presented as a horror. I was additionally riled by the so-called anthropological bent to this farce, and how Martin applies evolutionary psychology (yeah, seriously) to explain rudeness from the "alpha" females. No, Martin, they're just rude. I know, because I used to go to private school and summer camp with their progeny, and guess what? I got as far away as I could (well, philosophically and spiritually), and it's beautiful. But the ultimate irking came in chapter 7, when Martin loses a pregnancy in the 6th month (yeah, who told me this book was funny again?) and receives support and compassion from those "alpha females" who previously hazed and froze her out. All this is attributed to an evolutionary psych concept. No, Martin, it's just that sometimes people have an ounce of decency, especially when they know what you're going through. There's more to say, but life is too short to obsess. Don't waste your time reading this book unless you want more of a reason to become a socialist or something.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Cindy

    Intrigued by the premise, I was excited to read this. Halfway through I found myself irritated with everything about it. I took a break, then got back to it and had to force myself through, while ignoring animal kingdom references. After reading articles about falsities in the book as well and learning that the author has never actually been to the referenced animal tribes, the book lost all credibility.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Dana

    I read this after reading "How the Other Half Lives", as a palette cleanser. Provides good descriptions of the anxieties faced by the uberwealthy housewives of the UES. The author, who has a PhD from Yale in Sociology - a fact she brings up several times in the book, and further reminds us about it with her long, drawn out comparisons between UES housewives and various indigenous tribes and primates she studied at school. She goes overboard with the comparisons. I found myself, throughout the book, I read this after reading "How the Other Half Lives", as a palette cleanser. Provides good descriptions of the anxieties faced by the uberwealthy housewives of the UES. The author, who has a PhD from Yale in Sociology - a fact she brings up several times in the book, and further reminds us about it with her long, drawn out comparisons between UES housewives and various indigenous tribes and primates she studied at school. She goes overboard with the comparisons. I found myself, throughout the book, thinking that writing this book was a sad under-utilization of her education. But then I remembered that the book was probably selling like hotcakes and getting a lot more attention than her socio/anthro writing would have garnered. So...job well done? I guess...? It's a cute book. Read it if you want to read about spoiled women who have become overwhelmed by the non-problems that have come to roost strictly in their minds.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Mandy Jacobs

    first things first - take this book out of the library because i assure you, the author does NOT need your money. wednesday martin is a social climber, plain and simple. and if she had written a straight forward memoir of her efforts, then this book would be a lot easier to stomach. but instead, she insists on having your sympathy for the poor little rich girl who isn't allowed to sit at the cool table at lunch. her grasping attempt at anthropology is laughable at best, and does nothing to bolst first things first - take this book out of the library because i assure you, the author does NOT need your money. wednesday martin is a social climber, plain and simple. and if she had written a straight forward memoir of her efforts, then this book would be a lot easier to stomach. but instead, she insists on having your sympathy for the poor little rich girl who isn't allowed to sit at the cool table at lunch. her grasping attempt at anthropology is laughable at best, and does nothing to bolster to her claims. she attempts to befriend the women of the ues, and then sells them out at the first opportunity. no wonder they don't like her - who would? that said, it's an enjoyable book to "hate read," although i'm pretty sure that anyone who does not have first hand experience living in nyc is going to think the city is filled with the most atrocious people on the planet, and nothing else.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Mrs. Palmer

    This book did not really live up to the hype. An entire chapter on a Birkin bag-yes, that was real, and it was boring. The author tries to make the book more legit by throwing in references to ape studies and primate studies and anthropology, but it mostly distracted from what was a very middle of the road memoir about being very rich. It was a glimpse into a world I don't envy, nor care about. Perhaps the most bizarre part of all: the author, while trying to describe how she was trying to fit i This book did not really live up to the hype. An entire chapter on a Birkin bag-yes, that was real, and it was boring. The author tries to make the book more legit by throwing in references to ape studies and primate studies and anthropology, but it mostly distracted from what was a very middle of the road memoir about being very rich. It was a glimpse into a world I don't envy, nor care about. Perhaps the most bizarre part of all: the author, while trying to describe how she was trying to fit in, revealed how desperately she wanted to be a part of a culture that seems to be about massive amounts of wealth and privilege. Very little self reflection or criticism except on a very superficial level.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Vaishali

    An interesting peek into NYC's elite UES, told by a former middle-class anthropologist who married a wealthy native. Warning: be prepared to endure one entire chapter -- that's 28 pages -- on the pitiful pursuit of a Hermes Birkin. Note: UES extravagance is far more understandable than the author's rather dubious morality. Take this quote, made after discovering married folks never dally with the opposite sex : "What, I wondered, was the point of life and having a body you worked on like crazy i An interesting peek into NYC's elite UES, told by a former middle-class anthropologist who married a wealthy native. Warning: be prepared to endure one entire chapter -- that's 28 pages -- on the pitiful pursuit of a Hermes Birkin. Note: UES extravagance is far more understandable than the author's rather dubious morality. Take this quote, made after discovering married folks never dally with the opposite sex : "What, I wondered, was the point of life and having a body you worked on like crazy if you didn't have fun flirting?" Is it me, or is hitting on someone's spouse a no-no wherever you are on the planet? More Quotes ----------- "In fact, the extremely successful men of the Upper East Side and the Hamptons always seemed a little distracted and bored, because they were - by the endless smorgasbord of stunning women all around them, all the time preening and primping for their benefit. More than one European girlfriend remarked to me 'The men here seemed always to be looking beyond you, to see if there was a woman who was better or prettier or more important than you at the party or in the room.' That was the reason we tried so hard... the glut of beautiful young and young-looking-for-their-ages women everywhere you looked had changed everything about male-female relationships." "Ratcheting up the display of their bodies, recording their husbands' and attracting the glances of other men was conceivably an attempt to cut through all the noise and make an impression on men who were utterly habituated to physical beauty." "Compared to our girlfriends, our husbands were unfamiliar to us by summer's end." "A beautiful fat-free body and forever young face were prestigious... but they were also requisite uniform." "My body... was for working on and working at and improving - tirelessly, ceaselessly, endlessly - as hard as I could, for as long as I could stand it." "A lot of those high-achieving, hard-driving, highly competitive mommies and daddies can be perfectly nice one-on-one. But something about the group dynamic makes some of them awful." "A fashion-forward mother of two showed up one February morning in a white cotton dress... She was shivering, but she had crossed the finish line before anyone else. And now the rest of us, if we should wear this particular dress would be merely imitating her. This happened in early fall too. Women decked out in their autumnal finery... in spite of the warmth that still hung in the air." "... Female mammals including primates have learned to compete under the radar. That is, they inflict social rather than physical violence... The nasty looks and holier-than-thou attitudes of the queen of the queen bees and her acolytes in the school halls and playgroups went unconfronted because they were subtle." "At all costs and by all means, praise about oneself in this and other women-only settings was to be aggressively deflected, all evening. When told, 'You're skin looks amazing!' , the proper response was 'It breaks out all the time. If it looks good, it's just the makeup, believe me.' ... Everyone was looking beautiful, but no one was acknowledging it. That was the pact." "To the Mommynomics of the Upper East Side, (they) give away the skills they honed in college and graduate school to their children's schools for free, organizing the galas, editing the newspapers, running the libraries... Schools would go under without this cost of privileged mommy volunteers who provide hundreds of thousands of dollars of free work per year." " 'The Grille Room might as well be a men's club', my husband observed one day when the ratio of men to women was 1 to 4 ... These are places where business is done, and business was mostly done by men." .

  18. 5 out of 5

    Ellie

    This is a memoir of life on Park Avenue, the most exclusive address in New York City. Wednesday Martin looks at the life there, primarily of wealthy mothers, through the lens of an anthropologist. She uses her research into various cultures of animals and humans to make sense of the world in which she lives. Martin moves from the more relaxed, creativity-focused downtown scene with her family and young son to the far more conservative and competitive (as well as extraordinarily privileged) Upper This is a memoir of life on Park Avenue, the most exclusive address in New York City. Wednesday Martin looks at the life there, primarily of wealthy mothers, through the lens of an anthropologist. She uses her research into various cultures of animals and humans to make sense of the world in which she lives. Martin moves from the more relaxed, creativity-focused downtown scene with her family and young son to the far more conservative and competitive (as well as extraordinarily privileged) Upper East Side. The journey is far more challenging than she expected. From the obstacle of finding appropriate housing (in a "good" public school district) to accessing the elite private nursery schools (so essential for making the right contacts and entrance into the exclusive private schools culminating with entrance into prestigious colleges), to learning how to dress competitively, Martin finds herself bewildered at every turn and uses anthropology to understand why other mothers won't ignore her greetings at pick-up and drop-off and why her son can't get play dates. Coming from the midwest, she is unfamiliar with the rarefied air of Upper East Side parenting. At first, I was extremely irritated by this book. Martin, although not from extreme wealth is clearly quite affluent (she can afford the highly-prized, difficult-to-obtain Birkin bag which starts at $8,000, the expensive work-out programs and an apartment in one of the most expensive zip codes in New York City--which in turn is one of the most expensive cities in the world). Her position as "outsider" is interesting but she is hardly a poor or even middle-class woman beating at the gates of the rich. The extent of privilege on display makes it difficult, for me anyway, to empathize with the price these women pay for their life of ease. Constant, intense anxiety attends their search for perfection--of their bodies, their homes, their children, as well as anything else you can think of. In a world in which so many are fighting for survival, in a city where people work two and three jobs just to afford small apartments in the outer boroughs, it was hard for me to care about their very "first-world" problems. However, as I read I became more sucked into this world, as Martin herself was as she moved from the position of observer to participants. I found myself intrigued by the life style of these women. I know I would never be able to dress the part, even if I had the money to do so. Of course, apparently these women hire people to help them do that, along with everything else in their life. Hired help seems to be the name of the game. I lived for a few years on the Upper East Side but I was never even close to this world, other than passing the exclusive stores and expensively dressed, always thin and blond women on the street. I did, however, buy a stroller that was out of my price range to be accepted even at my low level (and it worked: other parents looked at me with a new-found respect). So I can understand the pressure to fit in and the obsession with making sure my children have everything every other child in their group has and guarantee them (as far as possible in this life) a safe and prosperous future. The closing chapters are actually quite moving. I won't give spoilers but these mean girls turn out to have hearts and show the capacity for caring and friendship under certain conditions. The book is interesting and amusing but not for people who are don't care about the privileges and trials of this very small and specific niche of women. In the end, I enjoyed it and didn't resent the time it took to read (which I did throughout the first half). It is definitely better written and more entertaining than People magazine or a Lifetime movie.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jordana Horn Gordon

    I wanted to loathe this book, as poor/made-up reporting pisses me off to no end. The bit that showed up in the NYT piece/excerpt piquing everyone's interest (the "wife bonus") is, in my opinion, nothing more than a sexy distortion of the truth: i-banker types get most of their take-home pay in bonuses at the end of the year, and therefore their stay-at-home wives also get/are 'given,' depending on your perspective on marital relations, a part of that bonus at year's end. So that bothered me. If I wanted to loathe this book, as poor/made-up reporting pisses me off to no end. The bit that showed up in the NYT piece/excerpt piquing everyone's interest (the "wife bonus") is, in my opinion, nothing more than a sexy distortion of the truth: i-banker types get most of their take-home pay in bonuses at the end of the year, and therefore their stay-at-home wives also get/are 'given,' depending on your perspective on marital relations, a part of that bonus at year's end. So that bothered me. If you're coming to this book for reportage and/or factual accuracies, you will leave unhappy. If you are expecting that the author (the book is less anthropological study and more memoir) will come away with a higher degree of self-knowledge that that with which she began, you will also be somewhat disappointed (the very last anecdote is almost embarrassingly puerile, as is the ridiculous sentence that goes something like, "My Park Avenue apartment wasn't huge, although I did have a separate closet just for my handbags." Break out the tiny violins!! Hell, break out the big ones!). That being said, I enjoyed the book much more than I expected. I have always had a bizarre fascination with this 'tribe' of UES moneyed women, so maybe that's part of the reason. But while there are big potholes in the self-awareness department, Martin is generally insightful and interesting as to the mechanics behind the largely female stay-at-home dynamic in affluent communities. The last chapters are also unexpectedly shocking and come as a swift kick in the pants to those who would judge others as readily as the bitchy women in the book do. Overall, it's a more cerebral beachy read that I'm sure will be gracing many side tables next to Hamptons and Adirondack deck chairs this summer.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Lauren Cecile

    I rate this 2.5 stars. I assumed it would be fluff but I needed something from the Hudson News store to get me through a four-hour plane ride. It was mildly entertaining and I liked the originality of viewing UES (Upper East Side) women in NYC through the lens of a trained anthropologist. The parallels between apes, ethnotribes, etc. was well-done. Still, I expected a bit more insight than the author gave. This is probably because she was one of the UES species being studied so she lacked object I rate this 2.5 stars. I assumed it would be fluff but I needed something from the Hudson News store to get me through a four-hour plane ride. It was mildly entertaining and I liked the originality of viewing UES (Upper East Side) women in NYC through the lens of a trained anthropologist. The parallels between apes, ethnotribes, etc. was well-done. Still, I expected a bit more insight than the author gave. This is probably because she was one of the UES species being studied so she lacked objectivity and distance. She calls this a memoir but there was nothing really memoir-ish about it except for the last few chapters. The rest of the book she just purports to be an observer. This book was in the vein of The Nanny Diaries and The Devil Wears Prada and I like books about the rich and fabulous in NYC. But I like depth, not just a shallow story. Most of the details in the book have been illustrated in similar books, so there was not a lot to be learned about the lifestyle. Perhaps if she had singled out one or two subjects and gave more scrutiny to them, as opposed to the entire UES, it would have been more compelling. However, it got me through my plane ride.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Christina Mitchell

    I am happy I will never be rich. Seriously. If this book has even a shred of truth to it, we need to wall off the Upper East Side of New York and let the primates eat each other (which I've no doubt they'd be more than willingly happy to do as long as it didn't blow their diets - though I'm guessing there are not many calories in the carcass of an extremely privileged, injected, siliconed, tucked, anorexic nincompoop). I gave it two stars because it did speak a lot to the hazards of conducting p I am happy I will never be rich. Seriously. If this book has even a shred of truth to it, we need to wall off the Upper East Side of New York and let the primates eat each other (which I've no doubt they'd be more than willingly happy to do as long as it didn't blow their diets - though I'm guessing there are not many calories in the carcass of an extremely privileged, injected, siliconed, tucked, anorexic nincompoop). I gave it two stars because it did speak a lot to the hazards of conducting participant observation in the field with the dangers of "going native" and losing objectivity, but that's the limit of my generosity. I do believe, however, it will make a hilarious movie - the movie Dr. Wednesday Martin alludes to in the book's conclusion (great use of placement advertising, Dr. Martin). God, it's been such a tragic day for me. First, there was reading this book, which makes me think evolution needs to begin killing off the exceedingly rich yet exceedingly helpless and nitwitted of this nation's cities. Then, I was tortured by having to listen to Kim Kardashian as the guest for "Not My Job" on NPR's Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me!. Our society is doomed! Doomed, I say! P.S. Did Kim Kardashian even KNOW there is such a thing as NPR, or did she think it was some sort of E! reality spin off channel?!?! P.P.S. I won't be seeing the movie. P.P.P.S. Free to some home, one copy of Primates of Park Avenue. Will pay for shipping.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Melanie

    Ahhh, how do I describe this book? Another Goodreads user has once said that you cannot write a great memoir if you're in the thick of your situation. That definitely applies here. Author moves from downtown to the Upper East Side of Manhattan, where the uber-wealthy, including her husband's entire family, live. (HINT: Her husband is fabulously wealthy and well-connected. Totally unlike you or me.) She pretends that she's not like the other neighborhood mommies as she observes them and their var Ahhh, how do I describe this book? Another Goodreads user has once said that you cannot write a great memoir if you're in the thick of your situation. That definitely applies here. Author moves from downtown to the Upper East Side of Manhattan, where the uber-wealthy, including her husband's entire family, live. (HINT: Her husband is fabulously wealthy and well-connected. Totally unlike you or me.) She pretends that she's not like the other neighborhood mommies as she observes them and their various rituals, even though she does acquire a $10K handbag and frets over waxing her pudendum while in active labor. Aside from that, you can't really tell what she thinks about anything or how she actually interacts with other people (apparently all the other moms at nursery school hate her, but why? Or how so? Is it because she has a PhD? She does have a PhD, you know). For a memoir, there's no introspection at all. And she uses the funny but weird technique of frequently comparing wives of zillion/billion/trillionaires to groups of bonobos/baboons/macaques. I think she's trying to position herself as "not one of them," mainly on account of not moving to the UES until she was 40 or so, but it comes across as ridiculously as Hillary Clinton insisting that she was "dead-broke" when leaving the White House. When you're hanging out with the wives of billionaires, you truly notice how insignificant and stifling the life of a mere millionaire's wife can be. She lost me when she whined about the lack of government oversight for nannies (who are often paid around $100K/year), and how being thin increases one's anxiety by lowering the levels of available estrogen. Dude, we all choose our own hells, and the more stuff you have the more stuff you worry about losing. Everyone, including the author, seems fixated on perfection and acquisition and materialism. There is no depth in their interactions, it's all about Aspen and the Hamptons and shopping and charity luncheons. Anyway, she successfully bonds with the rest of the tribe when something bad happens. (view spoiler)[ She accidentally gets pregnant at age 43, decides to have an abortion, changes her mind, then the amniotic sac springs a leak around week 20 and the doctor does a termination because the baby is nonviable, or at least nonviable without significant risk to the author. (hide spoiler)] It's reminiscent of Elizabeth McCracken but less eloquent and less emotionally effective. At the end of the book, Martin and her family move over to the Upper West Side because they got jobs there and crossing the park every day is too much work, plus now she's with people who are less ostentatiously wealthy, and a mere millionaire like herself can fit in nicely. She even retired her Birkin bag after she discovered it was causing nerve damage! Then she adds an anecdote that is supposed to be schadenfreude-inducing, but since she's never established this Anna Wintour/Hilly Holbrook-like character until the end of the book, it only makes Martin come off as a petty bitch.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Praxedes

    This interesting anthropological look at the very wealthy of New York City was fun to read. Looking at the seemingly odd behavior of well-to-do mothers in the exclusive Upper East Side through a sociologist's lens was the best part of the book. Unfortunately, there simply was not enough of the science. Most of the book was about the author's attempts at fitting in with this new 'tribe' of hers, first by observation and then by deciphering the unusual social protocols in her new circle of friends. This interesting anthropological look at the very wealthy of New York City was fun to read. Looking at the seemingly odd behavior of well-to-do mothers in the exclusive Upper East Side through a sociologist's lens was the best part of the book. Unfortunately, there simply was not enough of the science. Most of the book was about the author's attempts at fitting in with this new 'tribe' of hers, first by observation and then by deciphering the unusual social protocols in her new circle of friends. She spent a tremendous amount of time discussing a difficult third pregnancy, which added almost nothing to the story. With more 'field notes' the book would have been a real winner in the non-fiction aisle.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Irmak Ertuna-howison

    i will leave the appalling subject matter (which is ironically the only appealing thing about this book) aside and just comment on the writing itself: it is neither a pop anthropology nor a well-written memoir. The analogies of glam SAMs with primates & other tribes are so weak, there are not enough testimonies to take this "anthropological" journey through, it is not personal enough, nor is it objective. in other words, this would be a good beach read but should not be taken seriously by any st i will leave the appalling subject matter (which is ironically the only appealing thing about this book) aside and just comment on the writing itself: it is neither a pop anthropology nor a well-written memoir. The analogies of glam SAMs with primates & other tribes are so weak, there are not enough testimonies to take this "anthropological" journey through, it is not personal enough, nor is it objective. in other words, this would be a good beach read but should not be taken seriously by any standard.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Sharon

    I literally had to push my way through this book. A whole chapter about a purse? Talking about fitting in with these people, when all she desperately wants to do is become one of them? If she was richer she would be as mean as the alphas are.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Gina *loves sunshine*

    this is one of those books you read because you want to learn a little bit more about the female behavior of the wealthy upper east side New Yorkers. It's interesting, comical, nauseating, etc etc. read it for what it is....kinda like watching the housewives or whatever else represents a tiny speck of the population....yet entertains us! Nobody knows who Wednesday Martin is and she doesn't really share the real side of her life in this autobiography. She spends most of the book making fun of the this is one of those books you read because you want to learn a little bit more about the female behavior of the wealthy upper east side New Yorkers. It's interesting, comical, nauseating, etc etc. read it for what it is....kinda like watching the housewives or whatever else represents a tiny speck of the population....yet entertains us! Nobody knows who Wednesday Martin is and she doesn't really share the real side of her life in this autobiography. She spends most of the book making fun of the female world she actually lives in, not in a witty dishy way but - analytical, 3 star

  27. 5 out of 5

    Adrienne

    As any sort of anthropological study, the book fails. Wednesday Martin lives this realty; she is in the thick of this nonsense. She also seemed to feel that she was being "swept away" into this lifestyle; she had no control so she might as well conform. The upper east side mommy struggle is real. Poor thing. It all really made me feel sick. The wealth, the egos, the jealousy, the competition. Not sure why I read this book. Thankfully in the midst of something else with actual merit and beauty. As any sort of anthropological study, the book fails. Wednesday Martin lives this realty; she is in the thick of this nonsense. She also seemed to feel that she was being "swept away" into this lifestyle; she had no control so she might as well conform. The upper east side mommy struggle is real. Poor thing. It all really made me feel sick. The wealth, the egos, the jealousy, the competition. Not sure why I read this book. Thankfully in the midst of something else with actual merit and beauty.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Heidi The Reader

    Primates of Park Avenue is a glimpse into the life of the privileged mothers of the Upper East Side of Manhattan. It's weird, otherworldly, and off-putting, at first, but then as Wednesday struggled more and more to fit in and, ultimately, thrive, I found myself cheering for her. I can see how this book isn't for everyone though. If you don't like reality television or the details of petty power plays between ridiculously rich socialites, you may want to read another memoir. As a mother myself, I Primates of Park Avenue is a glimpse into the life of the privileged mothers of the Upper East Side of Manhattan. It's weird, otherworldly, and off-putting, at first, but then as Wednesday struggled more and more to fit in and, ultimately, thrive, I found myself cheering for her. I can see how this book isn't for everyone though. If you don't like reality television or the details of petty power plays between ridiculously rich socialites, you may want to read another memoir. As a mother myself, I was thanking my lucky stars as I turned every page that I didn't happen to end up in New York City. I wouldn't want that type of pressure on me: to look a certain way, act a certain way, or make my family act a certain way. I can't imagine that it would ever make me happy and I'm surprised that Wednesday managed as well as she did and emerge, for the most part, unscathed. The author's reason for writing: "This book is the stranger-than-fiction story of what I discovered when i made an academic experiment of studying Manhattan motherhood as I lived it. It is the story of a world within a world, a description I do not use lightly." pg 18, ebook The "world in a bubble" that is Manhattan: "...many of us live unconstrained by our environment in unprecedented ways. But nowhere, I considered as I walked from here to there every day, foraging for crisp Frette sheets and shiny All-Clad pots and pans and the perfect sconces, are we as radically and comprehensively released as on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. It was the land of gigantic, lusciously red strawberries at Dean & Deluca and snug, tidy Barbour jackets and precious, pristine pastries in exquisite little pastry shops on spotless, sedate side streets. Everything was so honeyed and moneyed and immaculate that it made me dizzy sometimes." pgs 77-78, ebook Wednesday forgets to register her child for nursery school and has to scramble and beg to even get applications to the Upper East Side Schools because, if she doesn't, she isn't living up to the expectations of her peers: "Thus began my disorienting slide from bystander to total buy-in: with fear. I had been seized by the culturally specific and culturally universal anxiety of not being a good enough mommy, of being a mommy who does less than enough for her children." pg 90, ebook. The thing is, in my experience, all mothers deal with that fear. Most of us are just fortunate enough to be in a place that doesn't put a social magnifying glass on it. My favorite part- Wednesday decides to get a Hermes Birkin bag to stop women from "charging" (crowding) her on the Manhattan sidewalks: "Like a totem object, I believed, it might protect me from them, these ladies who were everywhere in my adopted habitat and who said so much without a word, using only their eyes and their faces and, always, their handbags. Perhaps, I thought, a nice purse like the ones they had might trick them, mesmerize them into believing that they oughtn't challenge me to sidewalk duels and all the rest." pg 132, ebook. Never underestimate the power of a really nice bag... The most disturbing part, for me, was the reliance of all of these women on their husbands: "...with resources under their control, with wives who are dependent on them caring for their even more dependent offspring, privileged men of the Upper East Side can do as they please. Men may speak the language of partnership in the absence of true economic parity in a marriage, and they may act like true partners. But this arrangement is fragile and contingent and women are still dependent, in this instance, on their men- a husband may simply ignore his commitment at any time. Access to your husband's money might feel good. But the comparative study of human society and our primate relatives shows that such access can't buy you the power you get by being the one who earns it. And knowing this, or even having an inkling of it, just sensing the disequilibrium, the abyss that separates your version of power from your man's, could keep a thinking woman up at night." pg 241, ebook That really bothered me. Wednesday ties up the memoir with a heartbreaking chapter from her own life. I won't spoil it for readers, other than to say, that I found it very difficult to get through. Primates of Park Avenue seems like a frothy and frivolous bit of writing about women who already have so much privilege that their lives didn't need the examination, but then I realized, that universal problems like gender inequality and becoming a part of the group transcend culture, time, and place. If you're looking for more books on these sorts of social questions, you may want to read Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg or Spinster: Making a Life of One's Own by Kate Bolick.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    When I read Jon Krakauer's book "Into Thin Air" I thought to myself, "I have no desire to *ever* climb Mount Everest." I had similar feeling upon reading Wednesday Martin's new book "Primates of Park Avenue" -- despite the luster, I have no desire to *ever* live on Manhattan's Upper East Side (not that it's even in the realm of possibility). Part memoir, part anthropological/sociological research, "The Primates of Park Avenue" is Martin's look at what life is like for the uber-rich of Manhattan's When I read Jon Krakauer's book "Into Thin Air" I thought to myself, "I have no desire to *ever* climb Mount Everest." I had similar feeling upon reading Wednesday Martin's new book "Primates of Park Avenue" -- despite the luster, I have no desire to *ever* live on Manhattan's Upper East Side (not that it's even in the realm of possibility). Part memoir, part anthropological/sociological research, "The Primates of Park Avenue" is Martin's look at what life is like for the uber-rich of Manhattan's most prestigious addresses (forget about the 1%, this is more like the .0001%). Martin and her family get a toe into this world when they move into the neighborhood from their downtown townhouse with the plan for their children to attend the local public school. But first they must get through the cut-throat arena of private pre-school. Behind the gorgeous exteriors (Botoxed, nipped, tucked, worked out, dressed, tressed, and housed to perfection) the people she meets are cold and unwelcoming to the extreme. It takes quite awhile before she's accepted -- even a little bit -- into "the tribe". One criticism I have of the book is that Martin seems to imply that some of this behavior is unique to the Upper East Side. Having moved many times as an adult, sadly I can attest that it's not. While her stories are more extreme, cliques, pecking orders, unwillingness to invite new people to playdates, etc. are perhaps more common than she realizes. Beyond a catty "tell-all" Martin also analyzes the economic relationships between husbands and wives on the Upper East Side, and how even the gilded aren't immune from tragedy. A truly interesting read. 4 stars -- dressed in couture! Thank you to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster for a galley of this book in exchange for an honest review.

  30. 4 out of 5

    KL (Cat)

    I actually have no idea what to rate this? Thought it was chicklit but nope, 3/4ths of it was like from a social anthropologist's notebook... a memoir? Three stars because I didn't hate or love it. /shrugs It goes into great detail what the upper middle/upper class is like living on Upper East Side, so if that's your cup of tea, go at it. You also get to understand why people say that a six figure income is not enough. I actually have no idea what to rate this? Thought it was chicklit but nope, 3/4ths of it was like from a social anthropologist's notebook... a memoir? Three stars because I didn't hate or love it. /shrugs It goes into great detail what the upper middle/upper class is like living on Upper East Side, so if that's your cup of tea, go at it. You also get to understand why people say that a six figure income is not enough.

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