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Why Moms Are Weird Paperback – August 1, 2006
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From Publishers Weekly
Twenty-seven-year-old Benny Bernstein struggles with her weight, her insecurities and a sinkhole of family love and dysfunction in Ribon's compassionate follow-up to her debut, Why Girls Are Weird. Three years after her father's death, Benny has shed 50 pounds, built a life for herself in Los Angeles and just begun what might be her first successful relationship with hipster Mickey. But a distraught phone call from her mother, who lost her job and broke her leg in a car accident, brings Benny home to Virginia, since her younger sister, Jami, still living at home, can't be relied on. Back east, Benny discovers her mother's house has become an animal shelter, and she has three secret boyfriends and a red-hot sex life at age 53. As if that weren't overwhelming enough, Jami is dating an abusive ex-con. Benny hires a hot handyman to help clean up the house and finds herself enjoying his teases and flirtations while missing Mickey. Between her mother's eccentricities, her sister's stubbornness and her own self-doubt and confusing love life, Benny isn't sure she'll ever be able to return to L.A. Chick lit fans will identify with this kind, imperfect heroine.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
As in her debut novel, Why Girls Are Weird (2003), Ribon's central character is a bouncy and articulate twentysomething struggling to find her niche in the world. Belinda Bernstein, aka Benny, has an art history degree and works in a travel agency in Los Angeles, where she followed her actor boyfriend, who is now out of the picture. When her mother breaks her leg and loses her job, Benny returns to Virginia to help out, abandoning her current boyfriend in the process. There she finds her widowed mother juggling three suitors and Jami, Benny's younger sister, "dating another gangbanger." Benny adds to this manic mix by carrying on a flirtatious relationship with her mother's yardman, who has a master's degree yet sounds like a hillbilly. Another mystery is why Jami keeps going back to her abusive boyfriend. Although several characters remain sketchy, there are lots of humorous moments as Benny attempts to untangle these entwined relationships. Deborah Donovan
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
Top customer reviews
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The minute I started reading it, I realized how wrong I was to have put it off for this long. I knew I was in for a treat, and I was. Pamela Ribon is an incredibly talented writer, and I've come to understand that she started off with her own blog, which then transferred to books. That must be why you could relate so much to her writing style, because it is very personable, it almost feels like every section is just another blog post. Absolutely wonderful. I like the fact that there aren't chapters, but more like moments. The whole book works that way, in moments. Each section describes a moment in Benny's life and when you put all these moments together you get the entire story, and you see Benny and all the other characters progressing in such a natural way.
Yes, I'll admit, as a chick-lit, it has its predictable twists and turns, and its typical happy ending, but Ribon does it in such a way that it seems more natural than other chick-lits. You relate to all the characters in this story, her mom's strange ways and how each layer is slowly uncovered throughout the story so we really understand why she is the way she is and why she acts the way she does. It's endearing in a way, and her methods of moving on are things I can definitely associate with. Jami's rebellion - although quite extreme - are also things you relate with. We all wanted to experience that kind of liberation at one point, the sort where you just didn't want to give a s*** about anything.
I was a little disconcerted with Mickey and Benny's relationship, it moved a bit too fast in my opinion, but then again, there were several passages that took place between them where Pamela Ribon just nails a certain emotion or situation, and I marked them all.
All in all, my first for Ribon, but definitely not my last. Can't wait to read more.
In just a few crisp sentences, Ribon captures the heart of maternal criticism, and why it can sting so much:
"The words hit me in waves as I dissect layers of passive-aggressie, backhanded complimenting. I can chip away and chip away, but I'll never stop finding additional ways to be humiliated back into the fetal position." or
"Our fights quickly escalate into yelling. I don't know how she can get me so angry so quickly. When I feel slighted by my mother, when she accuses me of being wrong when I know I'm right, there isn't a decibel loud enough to make me feel relief."
By allowing Benny's mother room to have her say, Ribon allows readers to see how they differ in their memories and intentions. Even when her mother's boyfriend makes an obviously racist remark, Ribon shows how, to his mind, that is not what he intended, and the reader has plenty to mull over as each feisty, headstrong, quirky character battles it out for the supremacy of their point of view.
While we start off hearing all about why Benny hates her mother and might someday kill her, the real story here is one of love, between parents and children, sisters, and friends. It's about Benny finding herself and figuring out who she is both independently of her family, and as a part of them. No character here is a saint; all have major flaws and have made major mistakes, but when push comes to shove (sometimes literally), they're there for each other.
Ribon also shows that nobody else can decide your fate for you. Jami, Benny's sister, repeatedly falls for the most loser guys, the ones who practically have a warning of "will treat you like crap" on them, but Jami likes the drama and goes back for more over and over, and it's both heartbreaking but incredibly honest to watch her family try to cope with her self-destructive behavior.
There is also the matter of Benny's love interests, which Ribon handles with an emotional intensity and insight that's rare. She shows two men who fall hard for Benny, as well as Benny's mixed feelings, and keeps us guessing until the end about what her final decision will be.
Why Moms Are Weird is intensely funny, but underneath the humor, Benny's struggles are relatable, entertaining, and emotionally honest. I look forward to reading more of Ribon's work (next up is Why Girls Are Weird, yes, I started backwards).
Most recent customer reviews
January 6, 2007
Amazon rating 4/5
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