What would you do if the very role that defined you was taken away? Taylor Young, a periphery character in Jane Porter’s previous novel, ODD MOM OUT, now takes center stage in MRS. PERFECT, where she faces that exact dilemma.
An attractive mother of three beautiful girls, wife to the very successful Nathan, and sort of a ringleader for her group of seemingly perfect moms in their upper-class Bellevue, Washington neighborhood, Taylor had left behind a career in public relations to be a mom, and her days couldn’t be busier. She scored the coveted but labor-intensive job of running her daughters’ private school’s charity auction, in addition to chauffeuring her children around to their various activities and keeping their spectacular house up, as well as taking time to make sure her own appearance was topnotch, scheduling appointments for the requisite manicures, pedicures, waxings and highlightings.
Sound exhausting? It is! To be an uber-mom today, you need the time management skills of an army drill sergeant, the negotiating tact of a SWAT team and the outward appearance of a supermodel. And although it’s daunting, Taylor relishes her life and status. It redresses all the wrongs of her neglected and not-so-glamorous childhood, when she was known as the less-than-perfect Tammy Jones. Despite the careful image she has created for herself, she recognizes the role it serves: “I like being Taylor Young. I need to be Taylor Young. I never want to be Tammy Jones again.” She revels in her inward and outward attributes and accomplishments, and can’t understand people like Marta Zinsser, who disdains a more feminine appearance, choosing to don leather jackets and well-worn boots instead of couture clothes.
But soon the expensive designer rug is pulled out from under Taylor when her husband reveals that they are financially strapped --- worse than strapped. Thanks to their high living and poor fiscal management, they are severely in debt. Nathan takes a job out of state to help the family regain their footing, while Taylor frantically tries to salvage the image of their perfect life. At first, it all seems too much to bear, but slowly the fighter in Taylor emerges and she starts putting her life back together, one dream at a time. Although her marriage appears to be in a precarious state, she decides that she has to focus on what she can do to better their situation. She begins to downsize in every way imaginable, and even starts looking for a job.
When jobs that will accommodate her children’s busy schedule seem to be impossible to locate, Taylor finds some help from a very unexpected source --- Marta Zinsser. Although seemingly polar opposites, by working at Marta’s advertising firm, she learns that they have more in common than anyone would imagine. They both strive to be the best moms they can be and take fierce pride in their work. This unexpected kindness helps Taylor realize what’s really important in life and just how she can regain those things.
In her latest outing, Jane Porter touches on so many of the universal topics that have been (and will continue to be) hot-button issues for women. Stay-at-home moms vs. working moms, falling prey to the fast-paced “keeping up with the Joneses” mentality and the endless acquisition of more possessions --- all of these issues are keenly examined in this compulsively readable and enjoyable novel. When contemplating selling off her possessions, Taylor admits, “I’m so afraid I can’t survive this. It’s not just the loss of things. It’s not even the loss of Nathan. It’s the loss of pride.” How can you maintain your pride when everything you once valued has been stripped away?
Porter’s charming book reminds us that it’s not our possessions that define us, no matter what Madison Avenue tells us. It’s who we are and how we treat each other that really counts. And as the old saying goes, that which does not kill us only makes us stronger. We root for Taylor to overcome her hardships and flourish. MRS. PERFECT is a terrific companion to ODD MOM OUT and a delicious treat for readers everywhere.
Reviewed by Bronwyn Miller on January 7, 2011
- Publication Date: May 5, 2008
- Genres: Fiction
- Paperback: 419 pages
- Publisher: 5 Spot
- ISBN-10: 0446699241
- ISBN-13: 9780446699242