Book Corner: Parenting in Print

The first one took me along a darkened, twisty trail as girls became teenagers rebelling against their parents and wrestling with own personal demons, as teens became twentysomethings who still needed their own mothers, to women becoming mothers themselves (or wanna-be mothers) who struggled with their own rocky childhoods and tried not replicate them with their own children.


The second made me laugh (sometimes at myself) as it took a great big arrow and skewered the not-quite-grounded-in-reality lives of contemporary suburban parents, mothers specifically, who desperately attempt to camouflage their own insecurities about their bodies, their decisions to abandon their careers for at-home parentdom and whether their offspring have what it takes to one-up the kid next door who’s taking violin and calculus lessons as well as mastering French and Mandarin Chinese.


The third was just one big, absurd joke of an adventure that two suburban dads unintentionally embarked upon after a wildly intense dispute over an off-sides call during a pivotal moment during a 10-year-old girls’ soccer playoff game.


I’m speaking about three new books featuring parents, specifically Elissa Schappell’s Blueprints for Building Better Girls, Linda Erin Keenan’s Suburgatory: Twisted Tales from Darkest Suburbia and the novel co-written by Dave Barry and Alan Zweibel, aptly entitled Lunatics. If you’re looking for touching albeit somewhat depressing insight into the lives of women and mothers, you should pick up Blueprints. However if you’re up for laughs at the expense of hyper-suburban parents, grab a copy of Suburgatory. Laughter at bizarre antics? Lunatics.


Of the three books, Schappell’s Blueprints is the one I can’t get out of my head. It has stuck with me. Eight, interrelated short stories deftly depict women’s journey from girls blossoming into adolescents, college students grappling with intense adult issues and mothers of grown children who still need their counsel. In one story, you see a troubled girl who battled anorexia while her mother felt guilty for not recognizing the symptoms sooner. In another story, her younger sister befriended a woman at a playground who also happened to appear in another story as a girl who dropped out of college after she was raped at a party. The most intriguing though, were the stories about Heather Chase who went from being a teenager who was trying to gain popularity through sex, then later put herself romantically between two best friends (it ended badly) and eventually wound up trying to give her own son a valuable lesson in love and trust despite her checkered past.