Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Little Children

I hate it when good books aren’t good. This had it all: an interesting plot, well developed and believable characters, and an authentic ending which I seem hard pressed to find lately. But the subject matter was bad, bad, bad.

Perotta attempts to write an expose on stay at home parents. You’ve got your bored intellectual, your spandex wearing control freak, the spineless followers of spandex wearing mom, and the stay at home by default, career stalled dad.

Sarah, the intellectual, is frustrated in her loveless marriage and lack of socially acceptable peers. Todd, the good-looking dad who is trying to pass the bar exam on his third try, brings his son to the playground and is the object of fantasy (dubbed the Prom King) by the moms on the playground. Sarah is emboldened with her feminist ideas that women and men are the same and can actually be friends and walks over to talk to him at the swing set in order to prove her point to the inferior minds of the lesser mothers. As she is walking over, one of the previously mentioned moms (although this particular SAHM is slightly more acceptable to Sarah because at least she smokes) dares her to get his phone number.

At the swing set, she is surprised by Todd’s friendly nature and informs him of his playground royalty status. He writes his phone number on her hand and then she suggests they really shock the gaping onlookers and hug. Here, her feminist idea that a married man and a married woman can independently be friends is thrown out the window as the hug turns into a kiss RIGHT THERE AT THE SWINGS IN FRONT OF THEIR KIDS.

An affair ensues, she is ostracized (and for good reason in my inferior minded opinion) by the other moms and their drama plays out in both of their marriages.

Icky stuff but dang it…it’s good! My gripe is the haughty nature of the educated mother. I feel like I keep reading about her over and over. Since when does going to graduate school give a degree in life superiority? It’s as if going to school is the only truly worthy thing a woman can do anymore. Hey, I admire the sacrifice and dedication it takes to complete a thesis or advanced degree. Here’s a big, gold star for you. But it also takes dedication and sacrifice, not to mention an incredibly sound mind, to take on the challenge of parenting and running a household with enthusiasm and zest.

The funny thing is, I don’t know either of these women. Sure, moms can be competitive but it’s usually due to their own insecurities. I know I feel I don’t measure up but I don’t believe it’s because some snarky woman on a playground says rude things to me about the processed food I feed my children or because my friend with a graduate degree constantly spouts off quotes from classic literature.

Diatribe aside, (I obviously have some defensive issues to deal with) my favorite thing about this book was the story within a story. Sarah attends a book group somewhere in the middle of the book and expounds on her interpretation of Madam Bovary - - something about how this woman might have been promiscuous but it wasn’tthe point of the book. It was about unhappiness and feminism and that the character tried to take control over her happiness although it didn’t lead to a satisfying outcome. In Sarah’s opinion, at least she didn’t let others decide for her what she could and could not do. While I might not agree with her feelings, I loved realizing at the end of Little Children, that Perotta wrote the same story. Very well crafted and richly layered. There are so many other parts to this book that I didn't even touch.

Definitely recommended but this is not for your Relief Society book group.

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