Monday, September 18, 2017

Mrs. Fletcher by Tom Perrotta: A review

Mrs. Fletcher is Eve Fletcher, a 46-year-old divorcee whose adored son, Brendan, her only child, has just left for his freshman year in college, leaving her with the proverbial empty nest. In her loneliness, she casts about for something that will bring meaning to her life.

It's not as if "empty nest" means an empty life. Eve has a satisfying job as the executive director of a senior center. She has friends and interacts daily with her staff and with the seniors who come to the center, but she definitely feels that something is missing.

She signs up at the local community college to take a course on Gender and Society at night. The course is taught by a fascinating transgender instructor and the other students are an interesting mixed bag of personalities and life experiences at all stages of life. Eve becomes engrossed in new avenues of thought that are opened up for her by the course.

At some point, after Brendan leaves for college, she receives an anonymous text message: “U R my MILF!” Who would have sent her such a message and why?

Thinking of MILFs leads her into thinking of porn and soon she finds herself watching porn on the internet every night. She is especially obsessed with a particular lesbian MILF site. She can't stop watching! She is quickly becoming addicted to web porn and her fixation threatens to spill over into her real life in unexpected and embarrassing ways.

Meanwhile, Brendan, the jock and aspiring frat-boy, is finding that college does not live up to his sex-crazed expectations. He was expecting to pursue a hard partying lifestyle, but a few weeks into the college year, he finds himself lost at sea. He is floundering in all of his classes and he finds that his attitude of smug white-dude privilege and chauvinistic ideas about sex do not find favor with the female students with whom he comes in contact.

In short, as the autumn progresses, both mother and son must face the consequences of bad decisions and mistakes they have made. 

Perrotta presents his characters' conundrums with a wry humor along with sharp social commentary. He deals with the various permutations of sexuality and identity with a provocative and always witty frankness.

This is, on one level, a very funny book, but it is much more than that. Perrotta gives us an unflinching look at some of the darker corners of modern society and how we deal with our fellow men/women/humans. And even as he presents his perspectives with humor, he leaves us with a lot to ponder in our more sober moments. 

Overall, I found this to be a quick read, because once I got started, it was hard to put down. I was completely engaged by the story.

My rating: 5 of 5 stars  

7 comments:

  1. I'm glad you found this book witty and satisfying.

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    1. It was certainly that, and thought-provoking as well - a triple threat.

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  2. I have only ever read one Perrotta novel: Election. I think it was his first. At first, reading your review, I found it a stretch that a grown woman would get into porn and that a college dude in this day and age would be a chauvinist, but you know what? It is probably true.

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    1. The only other Perrotta novel I had read was Leftovers which was quite a different kettle of fish. I really didn't find either mother or son a stretch of my imagination. The son had been privileged all of his young life and grew up believing he was god's gift to the world - especially the world of women. The mother was lonely and looking for a way to connect with someone and her class in Gender and Society led her into an exploration of her own sexuality, as well as what was "available" in the world. Perrotta made it all plausible and bittersweet.

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    2. Plausible and bittersweet works for me.

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