Becoming – by Michelle Obama – independent book review – Non-fiction – autobiography

Based on advice received from multiple friends, I opted to listen to the audiobook rather than read this book. It was an investment (19 hours) but I’m glad I did it. It was a little like having my own conversation with the former First Lady (where I didn’t get to do much talking). I confess I did tear up on more than one occasion as she related a particularly emotional event – like the shooting at Newtown’s Sandy Hook Elementary or a conversation with a wounded veteran. Awarded four stars on Goodreads.

The good news is that her life story is interesting, her insights are thoughtful, and the glimpse into the life of the Obama family is real and easy to identify with. And it gets more interesting as the book moves along.

Mrs. Obama is candid about her husband’s political ambitions and her own reluctance for him to pursue those aspirations. She is honest about NOT expecting him to win the Presidential election of 2008. And I enjoyed listening to how she grew into the role of First Lady, unsure about how to use the power at first and slowly coming to recognize the advantages. She also shares what a mixed bag it is to be married to someone with ambition, obvious charisma and a commitment to put public service ahead of personal priorities. (Don’t worry. He comes off pretty well overall, particularly in light of the fact that I am listening to this book with a VERY different kind of occupant currently in the White House.)

I was able to identify with Michelle Obama, who comes off as juggling the same concerns most working women have (at least the ones I know). How do I continue to support my husband’s career while maintaining my own goals and hopes? How do I give my children a relatively “normal” upbringing, within the confines of secret service protection and under the continual scrutiny of the media? How do I still make a meaningful contribution when circumstances force me to relocate and put my own career on hold? What boundaries are reasonable to ensure I get at least a little ME time?

Of course added to these more universal concerns are a whole slew of limitations most of us NEVER face. How can I observe my daughter participate in a school game without causing a scene? How can I authentically connect with the mothers of my daughters’s friends? How do I maintain some of the beloved traditions associated with the White House while, at the same time, modernizing them just a little to make them more open and inclusive? How much can I push back against the security and protection imposed by more experience and knowledgeable agents? Is it possible to have ANY spontaneity when so many others are customarily involved in every decision I make?

I have to say, however, there are moments when I felt sections were over-written. Details or descriptions bordering on trite. But these were minor concerns. I learned a lot, feel I know the Obamas better, and continue to respect the work they did for this country.

More about Michelle Obama.