Grove Press
Grove Press
Grove Press

Why We Can’t Sleep

Women’s New Midlife Crisis

by Ada Calhoun

An instant New York Times bestseller—lauded by critics and TV personalities alike—and one of the most anticipated books of the year, Ada Calhoun’s Why We Can’t Sleep has ignited an essential conversation about the midlife realities faced by Gen X women, the generation raised to “have it all.”

  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Page Count 288
  • Publication Date January 19, 2021
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-4857-5
  • Dimensions 5.5" x 8.25"
  • US List Price $16.00
  • Imprint Grove Hardcover
  • Page Count 288
  • Publication Date January 07, 2020
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-4785-1
  • Dimensions 5.5" x 8.25"
  • US List Price $26.00
  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Publication Date January 07, 2020
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-4786-8
  • US List Price $26.00

When Ada Calhoun found herself in the throes of a midlife crisis, she thought that she had no right to complain. She was married with children and a good career. So why did she feel miserable? And why did it seem that other Generation X women were miserable, too?

Calhoun decided to find some answers. She looked into housing costs, HR trends, credit card debt averages, and divorce data. At every turn, she saw a pattern: sandwiched between the Boomers and the Millennials, Gen X women were facing new problems as they entered middle age, problems that were being largely overlooked.

Speaking with women across America about their experiences as the generation raised to “have it all,” Calhoun found that most were exhausted, terrified about money, under-employed, and overwhelmed. Instead of being heard, they were told instead to lean in, take “me-time,” or make a chore chart to get their lives and homes in order.

In Why We Can’t Sleep, Calhoun opens up the cultural and political contexts of Gen X’s predicament and offers solutions for how to pull oneself out of the abyss—and keep the next generation of women from falling in. The result is reassuring, empowering, and essential reading for all middle-aged women, and anyone who hopes to understand them.

Praise for Why We Can’t Sleep

A New York Times Editors’ Choice
Featured on the Today Show, the Tamron Hall Show, Live with Kelly and Ryan, NPR, and on the Cover of O, the Oprah Magazine

An Indie Next pick!
One of Vogue’s Best Books to Read this Winter
One of Forbes’ Most Anticipated Books of 2020

“Women are taught to not feel anything for ourselves and to not feel for one another. And our generation is the smallest generation… [Why We Can’t Sleep] is a book that makes you feel less crazy. Like oh, it is not my imagination.”—Kelly Ripa on Live with Kelly and Ryan

“Timely, humane, raw, honest, and sincere.”—Forbes, “The 10 Most Anticipated Books Of 2020, According to Independent Bookstores”

“Candid and engaging. [Calhoun] is a funny, smart, compassionate narrator… I admired her insistence on taking women’s concerns seriously.”—New York Times Book Review

“An engaging hybrid of first-person confession, reportage, pop culture analysis, and statistics… it aspires to something larger than memoir.”—New Republic

“Calhoun speaks directly to her own generation, peppering the book with so many specific cultural touchstones… that I found reading Why We Can’t Sleep to be a singular experience — driving home her point that Gen X is so often overlooked.”—Minneapolis Star Tribune

“A superb mix of personal stories and deep research about a generation of women who are facing unprecedented pressure as they enter middle age. It’s at once realistic, but positive, asking women to face up to reality, let go of expectations, find a support system and accept this stage isn’t forever.”—Huffington Post  

“Marriage implosions, rising debt, and a constant sense of failure pop up throughout this brief but potent and sometimes funny book… Why We Can’t Sleep might do much to let readers like the women Calhoun writes about that they are not alone.”—Literary Hub  

“Calhoun’s latest will be useful for those interested in feminist theory, especially insofar as it intersects with age and class, as well as a useful resource for people struggling to find balance in their personal and professional lives.”—Library Journal (Starred Review) 

“[A] bracing, empowering study… Women of every generation will find much to relate to in this humorous yet pragmatic account.”—Publishers Weekly

“An assured, affable guide, Calhoun balances bleakness with humor and the hope inherent in sharing stories that will make other women feel less alone. She also gives good advice for finding support through midlife hardship. This is a conversation starter (as well as a no-brainer for book groups that count Gen X women among their members) that might get Boomer and Millennial readers curious, too.”—Booklist

“Ada Calhoun provides a thoughtful, incisive account of the myriad challenges facing Generation X women.”—Shelf Awareness

“‘Having it all’ was the Baby Boomers’ rallying cry as, aided by new tools of reproductive control, we burst from the pink ghettoes of the secretarial pool and ceaseless childcare to seek fulfillment in workaholic professions. Two generations later, despairing Gen X women find the glass mountain of fulfillment still impossible to scale, and with deep perception, wit and incisive analysis, Ada Calhoun tells us why, tracing the internal as well as the external forces that separate women from the peace they’ve spent their lives earning.”—Harriet A. Washington, author of A Terrible Thing to Waste: Environmental Racism and Its Assault on the American Mind  

“Ada Calhoun’s soulful investigation into the complex landscape women in midlife face today is downright stunning. Calhoun has captured the voices—some broken, some resilient, many barely staying afloat—of over 200 women from around the country and in doing so, shown us how much we share in divisive times. You will recognize yourself in these pages, breathe a sigh of relief, and think, I’m not alone.”—Susannah Cahalan, author of the New York Times bestselling Brain on Fire

“This is the book of our generation. Ada Calhoun brilliantly encapsulates the struggle and confusion that is the Gen X woman’s experience in middle age. And by placing this condition into the context of the generations coming before and after, she makes sense of how it is that we’re so surprised that we have failed at having it all. Heavily researched, expertly paced, and seamlessly woven together, Why We Can’t Sleep provides an ‘aha’ moment that at once validates our experience and establishes a sense of community and hope.”—Janet Krone Kennedy, PhD, Clinical Psychologist, author of The Good Sleeper and founder of NYC Sleep Doctor

“It’s difficult to grapple with the immense anxiety and fear so many women go through alone, but Ada Calhoun’s artistry as a writer makes her the perfect guide through the rough business of middle age.”—Kathleen Hanna of Bikini Kill

“Helping women realize that some difficulty, some confusion, is not just all in their mind is probably one of your more feminist acts, and the impressive amount of research Ada Calhoun did on the very specific forces, past and present, that are bedeviling Gen X women as they face the strange period that is midlife is just that kind of gift. But the other gift is that she writes with clear sight, compassion, and hope about our very specific talents and tenacity. Which means: this book is a thousand times more healing than a jadeite egg!”—Carlene Bauer, author of Not That Kind of Girl

“I love Ada Calhoun’s writing. Why We Can’t Sleep just took me to school, laughing all the way there.”—Adam Horovitz of the Beastie Boys


An acquaintance told me she’d been having a rough time, working three jobs as a single mother since her husband left her. Determined to cheer up her family, she planned a weekend trip. After working a long week, she started packing at ten p.m., figuring she could catch a few hours of sleep before their five a.m. departure. She asked her eleven-year-old son to start gathering his stuff; he didn’t move. She asked again. Nothing.

“If you don’t help,” she told him, “I’m going to smash your iPad.”

He still didn’t move.

As if possessed, she grabbed a metal hammer and whacked the iPad to pieces.
When she told me this, I thought of how many parents I know who have fantasized or threatened this very thing, and here she’d actually done it. I laughed.

“Yeah, my friends think it’s a hilarious story too,” she said, “but in reality, it was dark and awful.” Her first thought as she stood over the broken glass: “I have to find a good therapist…right…now.”

Since turning forty a couple of years ago, I’ve become obsessed by women my age and their—our—struggles with money, relationships, work, and existential despair.

Looking for more women to talk to for this book, I called my friend Tara, a successful reporter a few years older than me who grew up in Kansas City. Divorced about a decade ago, she has three mostly-grown children and lives on a quiet, leafy street in Washington, D.C., with her boyfriend. They recently adopted a rescue dog.

“Hey,” I said, happy to have caught her on a rare break from her demanding job, “do you know anyone having a midlife crisis I could talk to?”

The phone was silent.

Finally, she said, “I’m trying to think of any woman I know who’s not.”