Saturday, May 10, 2008

REVIEW: Of Men and Their Mothers, by Mameve Medwed

Of Men and Their Mothers, by Mameve Medwed. Published 2008 by William Morrow. Fiction.

Of Men and Their Mothers should more justly be called Of Women and Their Mothers (and Mothers-In-Law, and Grandmothers); the men amble around the periphery of this charming romp, but the real story is women's relationships and bonds, the way their bonds strain and stretch, and sometimes snap, and sometimes hold together beautifully.

The center of the book is Maisie, a divorced forty something woman living in Cambridge, Massachusetts, who works for herself as a professional organizer with a bevy of eccentric and colorful clients. At her ex-boyfriend's request, she takes on young Darlene as an apprentice. Darlene is fighting for custody of her infant son and needs a job and some stability in her life. Also in need of stability is September Silva, Maisie's son Tommy's girlfriend, whom Maisie struggles to accept. Maisie has problems of her own- a bitter relationship with her former mother-in-law, the cartoonishly spiteful Ina, and testy relationships with her ex-husband and former boyfriend.

Of Men and Their Mothers is a gentle comedy of manners, a tender, light story about a woman learning to accept the women in her life as they are, to care for them and to care for herself. Medwed gives Maisie an appealing, human voice, likable and flawed. Maisie's chief battle is to have a bigger heart towards Darlene and September than her mother-in-law has shown towards her, and to open her own heart to love at the same time. Events tumble along and everyone gets a happy ending, but not without a little struggle along the way- only a little, but enough. There's some real pathos to be found between the lines of Maisie's chirpy narration- September's situation is actually quite heartbreaking, and the resolution of her plot line felt a little pat.

Medwed is a Cambridge resident and fills the book with local-color details that add interest and fun. Friends tell me she is a book-club favorite and I can see why. I liked this book- it's a fun, quick read with good characters and a consistent tone and a sweetly satisfying conclusion. I'm glad I read it, and I look forward to reading Medwed's other books too.

Rating: BEACH

FTC Disclosure: I did not receive this book for review from the publisher.