Another Netflix original that I noticed had been adapted from a popular book by a debut author. As you know, I am loving the challenge of listening to the audiobook to see how much (or little) Netflix changed and made it their own. Did they make it better? Worse? And as also mentioned before, I noticed a radical departure from some of the original books (although not quite so much with Longmire, but thankfully for the Virgin River series).
The storyline by Stephanie Land chronicles her experiences of taking on approximately 25 hrs work a week as a maid (I would call her a housekeeper—not really a maid)—who is trying to care for her toddler daughter and take classes toward a degree. She writes in detail of her struggles with a broken welfare system (Washington state), assistance, that sometimes takes days of time to complete applications, numerous trips to the separate agencies, and then suffer through wait times of months, even years for relief.
Alex is a single mother with daughter Maddy who has escaped the child’s abusive father and homelessness to perform housecleaning duties for clients of a cleaning service where she is paid minimum wage. The series began on October 1, 2021 and was written by both Stephanie Land and Molly Smith Metzler. At 5/8”, the 27 year old Sarah Margaret Qualley (who plays Alex in the title role) was born in Kalispell, MT to parents Andie MacDowell (who also appears as her mother) and Paul Qualley.
Billed as a limited series, Season 1 of Maid has ten episodes. I say Season 1 as it has been holding the Top 10 spot since the premiere. Since the season ended with a solid (happy) conclusion, there is debate regarding a continuing story. Maddy, the sweet cherub-faced toddler is adorable and steals any of her scenes (I think anyway).
There are additional support characters (but the POV is all Alex)—the father—not the most supportive of dads, and the storyline zooms in on the various houses where she is assigned to clean, their stories, houses, and the relationship (or lack thereof) to their housecleaner.
This one starts out fairly slow building (after the initial fleeing in the night scene) the whos, whys, whats, whens, and wheres. Episode 1. Episode 2 begins building on the stories of the homes—who they are. Some are fleshed more than others depending on their involvement with Alex, many of whom have none at all. She names each of the houses—“the sad house,” “the porn house,” etc.
The story continues to build conflict with her ex—Sean—who is getting progressively violent. Conflict escalates with each new financial burden—carefully calculated on screen showing deductions into deficit. Her mother’s character is an aging hippie, alternately a helpful grandmother or not. I really like the fictional additions—the stories of some of the housecleaning homes, but there are holes in the series. I believe she is getting child support, but it doesn’t appear in the financials—only that of her earnings(?).
She is over the moon with her daughter and seldom (maybe once in ten episodes) gets tired or cross with her. I understand the overwhelming exhaustion—and times when she needed a break. And she does, from time to time get those. She has a pessimistic attitude, facing one crisis after another, not always making the wise decision. She tends to snoop when opportunity presents itself, trying on clothes while decrying the small pilfering by a co-worker.
I was the daughter of a mother left with two children, no education or working experience. I can remember the struggles, the panic, and the admonition that we could “NOT get sick this winter” (we wouldn’t dare!), wherever that was going to be. She never had a break, nor did we have any kind of child support. There were days she simply ironed—for eight hours (and any income is deducted from welfare).
Sometimes Alex just doesn’t feel authentic.
At 28, Stephanie Land’s plans of breaking free from the roots of her hometown in the Pacific Northwest to chase her dreams of attending a university and becoming a writer, were cut short when a summer fling turned into an unexpected pregnancy. She turned to housekeeping to make ends meet, and with a tenacious grip on her dream to provide her daughter the very best life possible, Stephanie worked days and took classes online to earn a college degree, and began to write relentlessly.
Maid explores the underbelly of upper-middle class America and the reality of what it’s like to be in service to them. “I’d become a nameless ghost,” Stephanie writes about her relationship with her clients, many of whom do not know her from any other cleaner, but who she learns plenty about. As she begins to discover more about her clients’ lives-their sadness and love, too-she begins to find hope in her own path.
Her writing as a journalist gives voice to the “servant” worker, and those pursuing the American Dream from below the poverty line. Maid is Stephanie’s story, but it’s not her alone.
Ms. Land wasn’t a teenager when she split from her ex. Nor at 28 (29?) did she seem to have an education she could apply to any available job, falling back on housekeeping as a way to spend time with her daughter. But at 25 hrs a week housekeeping, she was below the poverty line which left her with mounds of applications for aid, the embarrassment of food stamps, the doctors who only see the “Medicaid” patient, the WIC quandary. The failure of the system, heaven knows, is rather massive in any state, but Stephanie is detailing the failures, one at a time, over and over.
The more griping and negativity I heard, the greater my exhaustion of hearing about her victimization. She seems openly envious of anyone with more than she, perhaps not considering what it took to get them there. She may have tried on their shoes, but she didn’t walk in them.
Okay, I’m scratching my head over this one. Clearly, I did not care for the audiobook, read by the author or not. I could not engage, work up the sympathy. SOOO many thousands of women going through the same and they may, as my mother did, cry in their pillows at night, but they carried on without pointing fingers at everyone else.
Netflix, as they usually do, found a strong middle ground, showing both the failures and the successes, building empathy where due, focusing on the child, lifelines for abused women, groups, and helplines. Conflicts and resolution. Light at the end of the tunnel only to have the light smashed and the tunnel black again. The storyline moves, however gradually, in an upwardly mobile direction.
I don’t think Netflix softened or frosted over the critical situation of the women. But they did provide just that sliver of hope that the tide will turn. And indeed it does. I’d recommended the Netflix version, but certainly cannot the audiobook and by that extension the book as well.
Full Title: Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive
Genre: Poverty & Homelessness Studies, Government Social Policy, Social Public Policy
Publisher: Hachette Audio
Listening Length: 8 hrs 34 mins
Narrator: Stephanie Land
Audible Release: January 22, 2019
Source: Local Library (Audiobook Selections)
Title Link(s): Maid [Amazon]
Barnes & Noble
The Author: Stephanie Land is the instant bestselling author of “MAID: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive.” Her work has been featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Atlantic, and many other outlets. Her writing focuses on social and economic justice. Follow everywhere @stepville or stepville.com [Goodreads]
©2021 V Williams