Published: 1 August 2017
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
Category: Fiction/Chick Lit
Laurie Gelman’s clever debut novel about a year in the life of a kindergarten class mom–a brilliant send-up of the petty and surprisingly cutthroat terrain of parent politics.
Jen Dixon is not your typical Kansas City kindergarten class mom–or mom in general. Jen already has two college-age daughters by two different (probably) musicians, and it’s her second time around the class mom block with five-year-old Max–this time with a husband and father by her side. Though her best friend and PTA President sees her as the -wisest- candidate for the job (or oldest), not all of the other parents agree.
From recording parents’ response times to her emails about helping in the classroom, to requesting contributions of -special- brownies for curriculum night, not all of Jen’s methods win approval from the other moms. Throw in an old flame from Jen’s past, a hyper-sensitive -allergy mom, – a surprisingly sexy kindergarten teacher, and an impossible-to-please Real Housewife-wannabe, causing problems at every turn, and the job really becomes much more than she signed up for.
Relatable, irreverent, and hilarious in the spirit of Maria Semple this is a fresh, welcome voice in fiction–the kind of novel that real moms clamor for, and a vicarious thrill-read for all mothers, who will be laughing as they are liberated by Gelman’s acerbic truths.
Rating: 2.5 Stars
I love hearing stories about snarky moms, especially ones that have to deal with classroom settings because I am the mother of a kindergartner-going-into-first-grader and I do not have the mental wherewithal to deal with the politics and such that go along with the PTA and its members. Jennifer sounded like she was going to be a blast because her humor sounded like it would be my cup of tea, especially when going up against the other moms such as those described in the summary.
One of the main reasons I’m rating this 3 stars is that I thought there was a problem with balance in Jennifer and her personality. I definitely appreciated and laughed at her emails in the beginning, emails to the other parents in her son Max’s class that called them out on response times, volunteer excursions, etc., but the amount of snark and sass felt like it was crammed into the first half of the novel with a severe drop in the second half. This isn’t to say that there was none, but I definitely felt the difference and being inundated at the beginning with something of a drought at the end made the book suffer for me.
Another of the reasons is something of the racist comments that Jennifer makes. Very early on in the book she makes a comment in an email to the class parents about one of the parents’ people’s “need for power”. This instance gets called out later on, thankfully, but both the parent in question and is in fact one of the reasons that Jennifer temporarily loses her job as class mom. While she does apologize to Asami, I’m not sure how sincere it was because when she was confronted by the principal she was very vehement about it being a joke.
There are also other occasions when Jennifer makes a comment about “going native”: once in regard to her friend Nina, who I think was African-American, saying she was going to take her afro “native” and another time when Jennifer herself was talking about her personal female grooming and how it had “gone native” down there. In opposition to the comment she made regarding Asami, these are never addressed on the page and made it feel like they were being condoned, since Jennifer was never caught using them.
Jennifer’s character become a bit more problematic for me when she was making horrible comments (again, never confronted because she “luckily” never said them aloud) about a couple of the parents: the wife she viewed as not attractive while the husband was a “total hunk”. This coupling didn’t fit in with her view and she made snide internal comments about how “hot goes with hot, average goes with average”, how the wife must have money for it to be possible, and how she is determined to find proof that the husband married her for a green card. These moments gave me serious WTF vibes.
If it weren’t for these moments, I think I would’ve liked the book a bit more. Unbalanced humor aside, the characters were tabloid types that you might expect to see in chick lit. I liked Jennifer’s husband, Ron, and his bonding with his son. While I could see him trying really hard to get Max into sports and things that he liked, he never got super strict and demanded that his son like these things. He tried a lot and found things they could enjoy together, rather than forcing him into something Max would resent him for later on.
Now that the school year is over for Jennifer and Max is going on to the first grade, I have to wonder what next year’s batch of emails to going to be like.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.