The Rules Do Not Apply, Ariel Levy

The Rules do not Apply tells the story of a woman who simply wanted it all no matter the rules. Ariel Levy touches on various events that most woman will have experienced or are yet to experience. In a no-nonsense fashion! In this short memoir, she shows when you can no longer control how the story unfolds. And how striving to have it all can mean more to lose.

When thirty-eight-year-old New Yorker writer Ariel Levy left for a reporting trip to Mongolia in 2012, she was pregnant, married, financially secure, and successful on her own terms. A month later, none of that was true.

Levy picks you up and hurls you through the story of how she built an unconventional life and then watched it fall apart with astonishing speed. Like much of her generation, she was raised to resist traditional rules–about work, about love, and about womanhood.

“I wanted what we all want: everything. A mate who feels like family and a lover who is exotic, surprising. We want to be youthful adventurers and middle-aged mothers. We want intimacy and autonomy, safety and stimulation, reassurance and novelty, coziness and thrills. But we can’t have it all.”

In this memoir, Levy chronicles the adventure and heartbreak of being “a woman who is free to do whatever she chooses.” Her own story of resilience becomes an unforgettable portrait of the shifting forces in our culture, of what has changed–and of what is eternal.


I liked it though it certainly isn’t for everybody. Ariel Levy takes us through the breakdown of her marriage, the loss of her baby and dealing with her partner’s alcoholism.

While Ariel Levy is clearly privileged, she doesn’t shy away from that. As well as being upfront she isn’t pretentious and not showy. Her parents and upbringing come across very normal. And I really like that she doesn’t dictate how to live your life. She definitely isn’t preachy and discusses her grief very frankly. It was nice to read a book that doesn’t throw feminism in your face. She doesn’t try to be likable and is more about sharing her thoughts, than being unapologetic for them.

I enjoyed reading about her struggle with the decision to have children and the difficult process that it was. She makes the comparison to being in your 20s, 30s and the decisions surrounding having children. I liked that even for their faults Judgement isn’t a factor for the characters. Both sides of the argument are discussed (though quite often after the fact).

Ariel Levy admits that the rules do apply, and when she can’t go on believing everything is possible, that she’s not in control, she can be free… fuck having or not having it all. It’s the things we have no choice over that truly make us.

Three Pegs – though not something I would pick up again, unlike Wild or Eat, Pray Love
Check out my review of The Art of Asking for a different sort of memoir!



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