• To most of the world, Maye Musk is better known as the mother of Tesla CEO Elon Musk and a model.
  • However, it is her work her as a dietician that is central in telling the story of her life.
  • Making a plan summarises the key mantra in her self-help book “A Woman Makes a Plan”. 

Growing up in a family surrounded by kindness and consideration, the real world presented her with a harsh reality check. Consequently, she suffered, and it took a long time for her to learn how to protect myself.

Her strength comes through much later in the book after skipping through the loosely written and yet somewhat blog-like chapters about her love for beauty and dressing up. 

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It's the chapter on her marriage to Elon Musk's father that grabs the reader’s attention. The revelations are written from the viewpoint of an insider who escaped an abusive marriage or got away enough to reflect sharply on why they stayed in the first place.

After qualifying as a dietician in Pretoria, Musk moved to Cape Town to work as a nutritional expert. At the time, she had an on-and-off boyfriend who she hadn't seen for a year. He came down to visit with an engagement ring. She turned down his proposal, but that didn't stop him from going back to Pretoria and telling her parents that she'd agreed to marry him. She subsequently learnt about her engagement through a telegram that read, "Congratulations!". 

A month later, she was to marry the man who became abusive towards her, and by then it was too late to back out. She writes "I couldn't see a way out of getting married. There was no escaping it, in my mind."

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Her life turned to hell. On their honeymoon, he hit her for the first time. She wanted to leave but he had her passport. Maye couldn't escape her marriage. She longed to get out, but it meant admitting that she had married a monster and to her that was embarrassing.

"I didn't divorce him sooner because I was scared: I also didn't know that I could get out. As far as I knew, I didn't have much of a case." South African law at the time made it difficult for a woman in her position to get divorced. It is through this recollection that Maye tells the story that many women have no words for.

Her late father's outlook on life helped guide her after she found the courage to leave her husband and start from scratch as a divorcee. 

Financially and emotionally she struggled for some time but survived with the help of friends and kind strangers. But, like most women — particularly those who are divorced — she doesn't want to be seen as someone who is lonely and in need of a relationship to find happiness. And while she has put herself out there by dating and trying online dating, she admits that she has achieved success in many aspects of life except when it comes to love. 

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So how does Maye make sense of her life at the age of 72? In essence, by presenting her life as a message of hope. Her narrative of the ups and downs of a single mother of three with a fascinating career are movingly and candidly told.

However, the book contains many weak sentences that are strewn haphazardly on to the narrative cloth of the book, rather than beautifully woven into its fabric.

As such, the story doesn’t always hang together as a satisfying whole. Yet on the most basic level, A Woman Makes a Plan does what a post-divorce self-help book is supposed to do: provide an insider’s glimpse into the lives of many women who attempt to put their lives back together and start over.

*Nastassia Arendse is a television anchor at the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) where she helps viewers navigate the world of money and investing. She is the host of a weekly book feature at the public broadcaster where she sits down with local and international authors. In addition to that, you can catch her on KayaFM.

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