Families these days are "in crisis" because all of us have lost a lot of values that used to keep a family together (Kim, 2000).
In addition, Coontz very analytically eliminated all the myths about what families used to be, how & what they are in the current time, and what they should be (Kim, 2000). However, as a reader one might notice just little discrepancy in her dispute and statistics, which may remind that all of these socio-cultural examinations have been basically constructions that tell the story in a better way or worse than each other, but not flawless (Kim, 2000).
Thus, this is just too big an issue to get the whole thing completely balanced and organized. However, her logic has been well-developed and with given facts and statistics, it derived some very outstanding conclusions. For example, in the last two chapters, she tied up the analysis and pointed it toward the future, which as a reader seemed to be with reasons and somewhat inspiring (Kim, 2000). As she stated:
For, despite all the difficulty of making generalizations about past families, the historical evidence does suggest that families have been most successful wherever they have built meaningful, solid networks and communities beyond their own boundaries. We may discover that the best thing we will ever do for our own families, however we define them, is to get involved in community or political action to help others." (p. 287-288)
However, there were times when Coontz revealed her age by supporting greater "activism," but her adaptable definition of what constitutes action makes this phrase less annoying to others in authority (Kim, 2000). She also has a good grasp on the changing times, where all families continue to get used to the shifting gender and social roles. According to her (Kim, 2000):
argued in the last chapter that the so-called "crisis of the family" is a subset of a much larger crisis of social obligation that requires us to look beyond private family relations and rebuild larger social ties" (Pg. 283).
It is not wise to think that all problems today are due to the "people's rotten values," nor it can be considered historically correct. Families have always been challenged by the times, and so the book offers an interesting and wide-ranging viewpoint of our past.
Thus, Stephanie Coontz very carefully examined myths and misinformation about marriage and family in America with a winning argument that looking behind at marriage in a regretful way can worry today's married couples and families (Kim, 2000). Though none will question her stance as liberal and feminist in general, yet she didn't leave the Democrats and the Women's Movement for their own discrepancy and shameless propagation of myths (Kim, 2000).
She made efforts not to exaggerate any of the problems in order to expose the fundamental complexity of family issues in modern America. According to her, families cannot be comprehended without careful examination of both the smaller units of the men and women who make up families along with the broader units of the economy, the societal environment, and the existing laws of the times (Kim, 2000). She opined that:
The family arrangements we sometimes mistakenly think of as traditional that became standard for a majority of Americans and a realistic goal for others, only in the postwar era" (Pg. 262).
She further argued that:
The bold truth of history after all is that "there is no one family form that has ever protected people from poverty or social disruption, and no traditional arrangement that provides a workable model for how we might organize family relations in the modern world."
Coontz's prescriptions for transforming "larger social ties" and "solid networks and communities" remind you of Native American prescriptions for growing more virtuous tribalism.
The book in other words is myth-shattering assessment of two centuries of American family life that remove the fallacy about the past that blur today's dispute about "family values" (Kim, 2000). As she pointed out "Leave it to Beaver" was not a documentary, neither the 1950s nor any other instant from past offer workable models of how to manage one's personal lives as in today.
In addition, the author without reducing the current & existing crucial problems in American families, warned that what a society & its people need is an encouraging and comforting reminiscence for basically mythical past of "traditional values" that is acting as a trap only and crushing our ability to resolve today's problems (Kim, 2000).
Seeing our own family pains as part of a larger social predicament means that we can stop the cycle of guilt or blame and face the real issues constructively."
Thus, Coontz from "a man's home was his castle" to "traditional families never asked for a handout," this challenging book offers respected delusions about the past.
Coontz, in his book, was successful at giving a very broad view and was successful at providing evidence and information in his sub-sections that would have been enough to serve as the background for another book altogether (Amazon.com). The only criticism that can be given is that his research and matter presented in the book did not widely explore and examine the phenomenon of child sexual abuse and why and when it occurred more frequently; he also failed to clearly state some of the holes in the lawful legislatures that did not stop or decrease the abusive activities (Amazon.com).
This particular book is one of those that spark controversy and debate over the issue it is addressing. The downside was that Professor Coontz chose to exaggerate which made it seem like she did not believe the evidence she was imparting was strong enough to stand on its own. Some of the matter on the other hand seemed really exploratory in its essence, a good example of this is below (Amazon.com):
Surely some of the bizarre behaviors that Joan Crawford exhibited toward her children, according to her daughter's bitter remembrance, Mommie Dearest, flowed from the frustration of being forced into a domestic role about which she was intensely ambivalent." (Pg 36)
The representation of the account of the American family and society, however, articulated by Professor Coontz was by far the strongest aspect of her writing and proved to be very educational (Amazon.com). The book, even though, might be slightly sluggish but the matter would prove to be very helpful for the American history buffs or those interested in American sociology or even social work within the States. The documentation of the evidence of the societal myths within the American community are intricate and sensationally written (Amazon.com). A good example of this could be the existence or the belief on the existence of the nuclear family of the 50's was one of the many problems that was treated as new but wasn't, in fact, new at all (Amazon.com).
Coontz examines what the American society perceives as "normal" in terms of the family structures and the standards of living and how it was believed that this particular form of existence could solve the numerous problems that they were facing. Coontz is perhaps more flawless and thorough in her study of the myth of the "normal" lifestyle than anything else. In fact, I believe that her analysis could prove to be a very string eye opening cure for the policy makers who base all their strategies on the hope that the reinstatement of this "normal" lifestyle will solve their social issues (Amazon.com).
The 88 pages dedicated to endnotes serve as somewhat of an overstatement of both her passion and commitment tot the problem of childhood sexual abuse as well as her vast knowledge of the subject. "The Way We Never Were" is an exceptional, radiant, creatively scripture, an outright confrontation of popular myths, and an educational interpretation and representation of a subject that is not only a sensitive topic of discussion but can also be increasingly overwhelming (Amazon.com).
Sheri & Bob Stritof. "Your Guide to Marriage: American Families and the Nostalgia Trap" http://www.marriage.about.com/
Kim Allen. "Review: The Way We Never Were by Stephanie Coontz." 2000
Amazon.com. "The Way We Never Were: American Families…