Graduating college is terrifying and yet thousands and thousands of people do it every year. On the very same day that you are released into the “real world,” you’ll be joined with hundreds or thousands of other students from your same college. So, why does graduation and life thereafter still shake us to our very core? Because, author Caroline Kitchener argues in her debut book, “graduating college is like leaving a pool and jumping into the ocean.” The ocean is an uncertain place. You lack the community to keep you afloat or drown with you that you had in college. Post Grad attempts to look at five women in their first year after graduating from Princeton. It gives the rest of us a little insight into what we are getting ourselves into in the near future.
I was a little skeptical going into this book, because it definitely proclaims itself to be liberal-leaning. Kitchener herself is liberal. The press release talked about how many of the girls tried “polyamory.” Color me shocked, because ultimately, I felt that the book came off with some conservative values. Yes, the women experiment sexually and probably voted for Hillary Clinton. At the end of the day, they sought out relationship stability with a single partner, jobs that paid well and also fulfilled them, and wanted to understand and better handle their relationships with their parents. As many bad decisions as they made throughout the course of that year, they all survived and they all learned.
We’re going to survive too. That’s what the stories of these five women showed me. I could find a little bit of myself in every character. Alex, the chronically ill coder who was living with her brother and dealing with a relationship falling apart. Michelle, the talented musician trying to find herself and understand what she wanted in a relationship. Olivia, bulimic and determined to make her own way in the world, all convention be damned. Denise, the overachieving pre-med student trying to balance the world’s expectations with her own desires. Then, there’s the author Caroline, young and successful and trying to grow in her relationship with her boyfriend and regain the closeness she had lost with her mother. These stories twist and turn and some of them never really come to a close, but that’s life. This is not a memoir of each girl. It is a look into their life in the first year after college, something that is looming large for many of us.
If you like well-written personal essays and being reassured that your life is going to turn out just fine, I recommend this book. It is a quick read. While some of the subject matter made me uncomfortable, so much of it was relatable and touched directly on my own life and the lives of those around me. This is a great book for anyone worried about upcoming graduations or life changes or anyone who just enjoys a good personal essay. Kitchener clearly has a talent for storytelling. I have no doubt that this is her first book of many.
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