Friday, January 6, 2012

The Mother-Daughter Show by Natalie Wexler

It's just after the holidays, so that means it's time for a honored tradition at Barton Friends School.  Every year, the mothers of the senior girls put on a singing, dancing show honoring their daughters with fun songs and humorous skits to show their love.  As those familiar with this environment might imagine, competition is fierce to put on the best show possible and outshine the shows that came before.

Natalie Wexler's The Mother Daughter Show tracks the creation of this year's extravaganza through the lives of three mothers.  Barb is the perfect wife and mother.  She is married to a high-powered attorney and spends her life serving on various committees at the school, always ready to give of her time and energy, and a shoo-in for the coveted service award this year.  Susan has a career where she facilitates cooperation and team building so she is a natural match for the organizational job.  She can organize any task and build consensus and it's just coincidence that consensus always seems to be built around her opinions.  Amanda has spent her time being an old-fashioned mom, making a house, being there for her kids, but before marriage she had dreams of being a songwriter and performer.  Obviously she should write the show.

While all is perfect on the surface, there are tensions underneath.  Barb spends her time caught between her aging mother's needs and the dramas of her willful daughter, who has just announced that she wouldn't be going to college afterall, but instead moving out to live with her tattooed, disreputable rock musician boyfriend.  Susan's family is starting to show signs of revolt against her perfectly organized homelife where every choice they make turns out to be what Susan wanted.  Amanda now has to find a job with college looming for her daughter, and after a twenty-year hiatus, that isn't going to be easy.

Natalie Wexler has written a humorous, lively book with characters that every woman will recognize.  She deftly lays out the conflicts that face all women; whether to work outside the home or stay home and make the family the prime focus; the fine line between being interested in the children's lives and overwhelming them; the struggle to keep love alive with husbands of many years, and the fierce tug of obligations between children and aging parents.  Readers will sympathize and cheer for the characters, and find much to relate with in their own lives.  This book is recommended for women readers, but all readers will enjoy it.

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