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Mrs. Fletcher: A Novel Hardcover – August 1, 2017
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An Amazon Best Book of August 2017: Tom Perrotta’s latest is about a recent empty nester, struggling with this alien status and desperate for a distraction, when a very saucy one is served-up anonymously on her phone. No, it's not a message from Anthony Weiner, but it is something that piques Mrs. Fletcher's interest to such a degree that she becomes obsessed with a certain "adult site" and suddenly her sleepy suburban existence is sleepy no more. Meanwhile her son, whose clueless moments of Neanderthalism are proving a liability with the college ladies, is trying to find his footing in life too. Right off the bat you know that Mrs. Fletcher is going to veer into awkward territory, and it does have its cringe-worthy moments (which I think Perrotta inflicts with glee). But these characters are so expertly drawn that it’s easy to relate to, and sympathize with, their bumbling attempts at working through existential crises (unintentionally hilarious, and even shocking these efforts may be). The secondary characters are just as strong, and refreshingly unexpected. When Mrs. Fletcher’s ex-husband is introduced, you find out that he left her for a younger model he courted on Craigslist, and you think...Of course! But he’s actually not what you think at all, nor is his new wife. These are ordinary people making life-changing mistakes at a time when they should be (mostly) grown up. That’s the thing, though--no matter where we are in life--we always have growing to do...Perrotta, ever the provocateur, ties up a narrative loose end by creating yet another in the end. It’s something that will needle at you, in an uncomfortably good way. Such is Mrs. Fletcher. --Erin Kodicek, Amazon Book Review
PRAISE FOR MRS. FLETCHER:
""Mrs. Fletcher," Perrotta’s seventh novel and first since 2011’s "The Leftovers," operates and succeeds in ways that will be pleasingly familiar to his admirers. It uses a fecund premise, a large cast of recognizable characters, a rotating point of view, a propulsive plot, a humane vision and clean, non-ostentatious ... prose to explore a fraught cultural topic. There be dragons, yes, but decency mitigates the danger. “Mrs. Fletcher” is the sweetest and most charming novel about pornography addiction and the harrowing issues of sexual consent that you will probably ever read."
—The New York Times Book Review
"[Perrotta] explores the redefining of American sex lives by technology. . . . Mrs. Fletcher is a wry, compassionate novel about the ramifications of porn filtering so effortlessly into mainstream culture, without hysteria or accusations. Perrotta [is] well-versed in capturing the manifold follies and fetishes of human behavior. . . . One of the sharpest elements of Mrs. Fletcher is how Perrotta presents two opposing forces colliding on campus: porn culture and PC culture."
"At times morbidly funny and, at others, grim, “Mrs. Fletcher” signals a return to familiar territory for Mr. Perrotta — sex, school and suburbia ... While “Mrs. Fletcher” may sound, from a plot summary, like an R-rated comedy or the outline for a raunchy Judd Apatow movie, it is more melancholy than many of his earlier books. Sex and pornography often serve as shorthand for characters’ loneliness and their search for self-worth."
—The New York Times
"Light, zingy, and laugh-out-loud funny."
"Satisfying, wise and deeply appealing, flying by in a day or two of nonstop immersion, and in Eve's character it has true insight into the strangeness of all those anonymous American suburbs — the simultaneous comfort and loneliness of a generic place, a common life."
—The Chicago Tribune
"Sublimely funny ... in this shimmeringly satisfying novel, Perrotta uses the sense of loneliness like a propeller, raising these characters into glorious flight if they can just let themselves trust they have wings."
—San Francisco Chronicle
"Raunchy, hilarious, and unexpectedly sweet ... [Perrotta's] latest might just be his best — it's a stunning and audacious book, and Perrotta never lets his characters take the easy way out. Uncompromisingly obscene but somehow still kind-hearted, Mrs. Fletcher is one for the ages."
"The sinews of Perrotta’s fiction, rather, are the tensions within and between characters, tensions that he steadily and artfully amplifies until the reader becomes possessed by curiosity about how they’ll be resolved ... "Mrs. Fletcher" is lit up by flashes of acute observation."
—The New Yorker
"[A] fantastic tease ... [Perrotta] knows how to capture the hilarious contradictions of teenagers."
—The Washington Post
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Eve Fletcher works in a community center for the elderly, a fertile source for Tom Perrotta’s brand of comedy. Eve’s self-absorbed son Brendan is off to college, leaving behind his self-absorbed girlfriend after breaking up with her by text. For a few years, Eve has been divorced from her selfish husband Ted, who left her after meeting a Casual Encounter on Craigslist. Eve is now preparing for an empty nest by posting positive messages on her Facebook status and waiting for encouraging “likes” from her 221 friends. But Eve is needy and immediately feels abandoned, particularly when (after day 3) she stops receiving her promised daily text messages from Brendan. All of this motivates Eve's desire to leave her old self behind, a desire that manifests in sexual interests beyond her limited experience, as she considers sex with a young college student, sex with a woman, and sex in a threesome.
In the first part of the story, Perrotta alternates his focus between Eve and Brendan, telling Brendan’s story in the first person. Brendan’s introduction to college life gives Perrotta a chance to show off his ear for youthful dialog. Brendan’s college goals are to party as much as possible, study as little as possible, and get a degree (maybe in Econ) that will allow him to earn six figures as soon as possible. As his college advisor tells him, “Good luck with that.”
Where Eve’s life has changed by becoming an empty nester and Brendan’s has changed by losing the security of living at home, a third changed life is represented in Amanda Olney, the activities director in the senior center where Eve works. Unlike Eve, who has learned to fulfill her needs by surfing porn, Amanda hooks up for one night stands that make her feel good at the time but sad the next day. The novel eventually turns into a romp as the characters pair up in expected ways to engage in unconventional acts.
Perrotta’s socially observant humor shines in his depiction of Eve’s gender studies class (an evening class that gets her out of her house) and her emerging interest in MILF pornography; the casual racism and homophobia of seniors who are stuck in the 1950s; the tribulations of middle-age dating (and the dilemma faced by women of a certain age whose standards for men exceed their ability to attract those men); and Brendan’s politically incorrect cluelessness about women.
The story’s mildly serious elements include Brendan’s autistic half-brother; Brendan’s jealousy at the relationship his father has forged with his new family; the social construction of gender; the judgmental social convention of “age appropriate” relationships; high school bullying; the inability to let go of insignificant marital grievances; and the difficulty of moving forward after making a bad decision about life.
All of that comes together in a playful novel that is fun to read even if follows a formula that leads to predictable outcomes. Characters will do something foolish, learn a lesson from their foolish behavior, and perhaps find true romance in unexpected places. The novel flirts with unconventional thought while taking few chances, but it delivers the laughter and familiar insights that Perrotta fans expect.
Mrs. Fletcher isn't a knock you off your seat, blow you away thriller with plot twists and deception. It is a slow burning family drama with a very sexual undertone. Don't let that deter you from reading it. It isn't like an NC-17 sex scene filled book. The story deals with sexuality in more of an exploratory tone. The main character Eve Fletcher is in her late 40's and is getting ready to drive her 18 year old son to college when she overhears him and his girlfriend engaged in a certain activity in his bedroom. The language she hears him use when speaking to his girlfriend in the heat of the moment disturbs her but she doesn't get the opportunity to address it with him. This is in part due to his bad attitude and general teenage cocky boy attitude he gives her on their way to college in between his frequent naps. Brendan is your typical 18 year old jock who peaked in high school. He thinks the world is his to rule and that life is a giant party filled with girls to sleep with. Once Eve drops Brendan off, her life as a Mom seems to be over. She is filled with an emptiness that she is unsure how to deal with until a mysterious text comes through on her phone that says "U R My MILF" and a few other words that I won't repeat here. If you are unaware of what MILF stands for, look it up. This text sends her mind off in all sorts of wild directions. It awakens her sexuality and takes her on a journey that leads her to new life experiences and gives her new found confidence. Although she has a great and fulfilling career, she re-enlists in community college. She enrolls in a very interesting class on gender and sexual identity which is taught by a transgendered woman named Margo who Eve becomes very good friends with. The quirky students in her class open her eyes to the world and she enjoys their company. All the while she is growing and thriving, Brendan is slowly failing at the life he thought he would rule in college. This isn't my typical go to book to read if I was just basing my pick on the book synopsis, but Tom Perrotta is one of my favorite authors. He takes a simple story and brings life to it with layers and layers of character development. Small moments are thrilling to read because of his intense details and descriptions. These are real people who could be your next door neighbor but their stories are compelling because of the way he brings them to life. This book won't be for everyone, but if you are a fan of any of his other books which have become movies and TV series, you will like this one.