Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Mrs. Fletcher

Mrs. Fletcher by Tom Perrotta (2017)

Tom Perrotta's brand new novel is about two characters: a 46-year-old woman and her son. Brendan is a total frat boy, heading off to college. He's not a terrible person, but he's a straight white dude who is completely oblivious to what it's like not be a straight white dude. He's sort of gross to women and doesn't understand that. He just sort of bumps around through his life, without focus or intention, other than having a good time and partying. Eve is sort of glad to have Brendan out of the house (who wouldn't be?) but also feels the empty space that has now opened up in her life. She makes some attempts at friendship, and starts taking a class called Gender and Society at the local community college. One night she gets an anonymous text from someone calling her a MILF, and she gets fixated on the concept and develops an obsession with a porn site called MILFateria.com.

I loved Eve. She ran a Senior Center and was a totally competent and confident professional, but in her personal life she floundered. She was divorced and her dating life is rather stagnant, though her newfound porn habit has made her rather more adventurous in real life. She begins doing lots of ethically-questionable things, and I really rather enjoyed her struggle to behave as a responsible adult and give in (sometimes) to her desires. I found her very genuine and relatable in many ways, and to be honest I feel a bit miffed that a male author created her.

Brendan is another thing altogether. He annoyed me so much, and I kept picturing Tom Perrotta chuckling about Brendan's stupidity as though he was once just like Brendan (though I suspect he wasn't ever like Brendan.) I feel like we were supposed to be annoyed with Brendan but also write him off as young and stupid in a harmless way, but I don't find him - or any guys like him - to be harmless, and couldn't be amused by him. He even once used my most-hated, most-invalidating, male-tone-deaf statement, which is: "Don't be like that." (Does anyone else hate that phrase as much as I do?) He was an interesting character in a way, and he got his comeuppance but didn't actually care because he is so stupid he doesn't know what a jerk he is. I wanted him to grow up more during the course of the novel and develop more self-awareness. Don't get me wrong though; I still liked reading the parts of the story that were narrated by Brendan.

So that's not a criticism of the book AT ALL. My only criticism relates to a transgender character, Eve's class instructor. Margo Fairchild referred to her early life a couple of times saying things like "when I was a guy" and referencing how she "used to be man," which is not how trans people generally think about themselves. I mean, in her mind she was always a woman, right? But trans people are all different just as cis people are all different and it's not completely out of the realm of possibility that someone might speak this way. Just...I find it hard to believe that a trans woman who teaches a college class about gender would speak this way.

Otherwise, I loved this book. Tom Perrotta has never disappointed me. His stories and his style of writing are always a pleasure and and I'm only sad that now I'll have to wait another few years for another book.

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