British stay-at-home mom Fran Clark approaches her 37th birthday,
she's not only assessing her life so far (and finding it quite
lacking), she’s panicking over the party her husband is
throwing to celebrate her special day. Fran just can’t seem
to find the right outfit, one that will mask what the mirror
reveals when she looks into it: a sad-looking mouth, bags under her
eyes, a slack neck and truly appalling hair. Even as she angsts
over not finding a party dress, she is also not showing up for an
important job interview. This interview might jump-start her career
as a voiceover artist that she dropped when she became a mother. It
was also set up by her husband Richard, who is sure to be
disgruntled that she didn't manage to attend.
When Fran picks up her two children at school, she meets a bright
spot in her dreary life: one of her two best friends, Sureya, who,
along with Fran's other good pal, Summer, serves as a major
sounding board and support. Unfortunately, Fran also finds another
source of insecurity in her life in the form of uber-parent Cassie,
who assigns Fran the task of making hats for the children's play.
Fran instantly has a sinking feeling, since she doesn't know how to
sew, but she is cowed into agreeing to help. As in so many areas of
Fran's life, she feels she can't win in this situation; she can't
say no, yet somehow she will fail.
As Fran retrieves daughter Molly from her classroom, Molly talks
her mother into imitating Mrs. Gottfried, the intimidating school
administrator. Now here is one thing Fran can do, and it is
guaranteed to make Molly laugh. But Molly doesn't respond the way
Fran expects --- because Mrs. Gottfried is standing right behind
Fran, and she is not amused by Fran's imitation of her. In fact,
she wants to speak with Fran about one of Fran's children. Dread
fills Fran, who claims to be too busy to talk with Mrs. Gottfried.
The upcoming inevitable discussion looms over Fran's life, adding
yet another dark, foreboding cloud while Richard chastises her for
missing the job interview.
When Fran meets her friend Summer for lunch the next day, Summer
urges her to get a nanny to help with Fran's children. Summer
blames most of Fran's problems on Richard's unsupportive attitude.
She seems to believe that Fran would acquire a fantastic job, get
in shape and gain complete control over her life if she just had a
little bit of help. Fran must rush home, meanwhile, because Richard
is out of town at a meeting. When she takes her children to the
park, she begins talking with another of the school mothers,
Natasha, who proves to be funny and fun, not at all like the other
moms who constantly seem to be looking down their noses at Fran.
When Fran discovers something shocking about Richard, Fran leans on
her friends, including her new pal Natasha --- but not nearly as
much as she depends on drinking to numb her pain.
Fran's black humor lightens what otherwise could be a depressing
take on her ongoing woes and problems as a wife and mother. Readers
may find themselves wearying of her lack of constructive action as
Fran's life careens from bad to worse. They may also wish for a
little more follow-through and realistic resolutions to her many
predicaments. Still, this book, with its frequent funny asides, is
an entertaining read and concludes on a hopeful note.
Reviewed by Terry Miller Shannon (firstname.lastname@example.org) on December 22, 2010