Jessi Klein’s second essay collection, I’ll Show Myself Out, finds Klein in her 40s, parenting a toddler and trying to regroup in unfamiliar Los Angeles, a world away from her beloved New York City. “I constantly feel like I’m a leaky raft in open water,” she writes in “Listening to Beyoncé in the Parking Lot of Party City.” It’s a thoughtful essay that laments the changes of midlife and motherhood; it also had me laughing out loud, wishing I could share it with a friend.
Some of Klein’s essays are light—the one about her love for designer Nate Berkus, for instance, or learning to live with her ugly feet—while others dig a little deeper. She builds one essay around the “underwear sandwich,” a contraption postpartum moms wear to cope with bleeding and birth injuries, somehow managing to make fresh, feminist points in the process (and, yes, making me laugh out loud again). These voicey, funny essays give unexpected dimension to familiar topics, such as how widowers remarry faster than widows or that the mommy wine-drinking trend is out of hand.
One of the collection’s themes is anxiety—Klein’s, her partner’s and her child’s—and how it can rear up in the most innocuous-seeming moments. Another is Joseph Campbell’s concept of the hero’s journey, which Klein muses on to marvelous effect throughout the book. She turns the narrative template on its head, positing that pregnancy, birth and early motherhood are full of rigors and pitfalls, as difficult and life-altering as any masculine adventure. “We just feel the guilt of being terrible monsters, ironically, at the exact moments that we actually, as mothers, become the most heroic,” she writes.
Klein, who has produced and written for TV shows such as “Saturday Night Live,” “Inside Amy Schumer” and “Big Mouth,” fills in the picture of a woman at midlife who’s beginning to make sense of it all. This collection is as entertaining and heartfelt, personal and comic as they come.