Primates of Park Avenue | Wednesday Martin | Madeleine Maby | Simon & Schuster
What first attracted me to Primates of Park Avenue is its concept of the author observing the world of the lavish and rich world of Upper-East-Side moms in an anthropological way. What I didn’t expect was for the author to be so deeply involved in their world that she is no longer relatable. Primates of Park Avenue may be an interesting case study of the Manhattan’s richest mommies, but it doesn’t allow us (normal, average to lower-income folks) to ever relate to them. In fact, oftentimes it’s hard to not be slightly infuriated by Wednesday and her world.
Wednesday begins her story right after having her first child. She and her husband live in a townhouse in downtown Manhattan but now want to move to an area that has the best school. What I found odd about this beginning part was how modest she tried to make owning a townhouse in Manhattan seem. At this point, we can already establish that Wednesday and her husband are wealthy, and seeing that a move to Upper East Side, where New York CIty’s most expensive real estate is at, doesn’t really have them batting an eyelash made me wonder how I would ever connect with Wednesday and her story.
The thing is, I never could connect to or truly understand it. As Wednesday is introduced into this weird subculture of wealthy mothers, her need to fit in and climb the social ladder won out over observing. It is fascinating at times how ridiculous and excessive this world is. I mean, I love shows like Gossip Girl, but those shows are fiction and hyperbolic by nature. Primates of Park Avenue is a memoir, but it’s hard not to believe that some hyperbole hasn’t snaked its way into Wednesday’s anecdotes. They’re comedic, especially with a primate comparison thrown in, but is this all really true? Is it not exaggerated? Call me naive, but such extravagance is hard to swallow.
Wednesday’s story is brought to life by narrator Madeleine Maby. The tone of the story and the personal way in which it is written almost makes you forget that it’s not Wednesday who is narrating, but Madeleine. The audiobook allows you to absorb Wednesday’s insights more, and some of the comic elements of the book are played better than they would have been on the page. It’s also one of those audiobooks you can stop and pick up to enjoy anytime, which is what I did throughout the past couple weeks. There’s nothing more ironic than taking the train through one of the poorest neighborhoods in Chicago while listening to a story of women fighting over designer handbags.
Primates of Park Avenue may not have been what I was expecting, but I can’t deny that I did find parts of it enlightening, like when Wednesday explains and compares UES societal habits and behaviors to those of primates. When she touches on the gender inequality of the Upper East Side, I found myself empathizing a little with women who are educated but literally given nothing to do and are absolutely financially dependent on their husbands. For some of its gimmicky parts, I was surprised to see Primates end on a mostly heartbreaking note. It just goes to show that real suffering can ground almost any kind person (or primate).
Primates of Park Avenue by Wednesday Martin is now available wherever audiobooks are sold.