Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Meeting Mr. Wrong

Meeting Mr. Wrong: The Romantic Misadventures of a Southern Belle

by Stephanie Snowe

Very special books do not cross my desk very often, but I am delighted to have read Meeting Mr. Wrong: The Romantic Misadventures of a Southern Belle. I am fortunate to read this book because the author, Stephanie Snowe, is a good friend of mine who has wanted to be a writer for decades and finally got the courage to not only publish a book, but to make her debut with an autobiographical account of her horrifying and horrifyingly hilarious experiences as a 22-year-old single mom of twins in the internet dating world. You can buy it here. Buy it. Read it. Love it. Also: Read her blog Jason. For the love of God. She is hilarious, y'all.

Left high and dry, pregnant with twins, just off the altar, Snowe plunges head-first into the internet dating world, despite being told that if she did so an axe murderer would hunt her down and kill her. After weeks of wading through emails from men who clearly were not paying attention to, you know, anything, Snowe ventures onto her first date with Denny and, apparently, all of his coworkers. Thus start the Romantic Misadventures of Ms. Snowe. Between big fat married liars, mama's boys, men with killer attack birds and even a suitor named Big Pimpin' Willie, Snowe bravely plunges through the hell of the dating world with humor and as much dignity as humanly possible while being asked by a client to help with his urges. It reminds me of the time I was asked by some random man - at a gas station - whether I wanted to be his "special friend for the day" wink wink nudge nudge.

You'll have to read the book to find out whether Snowe ever finds love in the series of tubes internet dating world or whether she gives up forever, how fun a date during a hurricane is, and exactly what is so distracting about Big Pimpin' Willie's tattoo.

Meeting Mr. Wrong is a quick read, both because it's easy to understand and because you're itching to flip the page to find out what dating disaster happens next. Snowe writes with such conversational wit that you could imagine laughing with disbelief as she told you her tales over coffee (or a good stiff drink!) I enjoyed Meeting Mr. Wrong so much I finished it the evening it arrived on my doorstep. I very much look forward to her next installment.

Maybe Baby

Maybe Baby

by Tenaya Darlington

I received this book from a friend as a Christmas Gift, and it took me nearly a year just to get to it, I was so backlogged on books!

Maybe Baby is a strange little book following the Glide family as their youngest daughter, Gretchen, gestates and births the first grandchild. The story, while revolving around this birth, is more about how the Glide parents, Judy and Rusty, try to reconnect with their three offspring, all of whom they had alienated into practical disownment after highschool. We learn throughout the book that Judy and Rusty are a fairly typical sheltered, white, middle-class, midwestern couple who have children that go on to be a gay theatre major, a rock star, and a women's studies major, all of which frighten and anger Rusty. Judy allows him to drive his children out of their lives, but decides to reconnect with her daughter in a fit of breaking-and-entering when she learns of Gretchen's pregnancy. Through an odd series of events, this brings home their other two children, Carson and Henry, and gives Rusty and Judy a chance to reconnect with them.

The meat of the story revolves around Gretchen's unusual lifestyle. Gretchen and her boyfriend Ray - an eccentric modern dancer whom Rusty nicknames "The Chimp" - are founding members of a somewhat reclusive society dedicating to raising children in a completely gender-neutral way, including names, clothing, and toys. No one but the children's parents are to know the baby's biological sex, hence the title Maybe Baby (Maybe a boy, maybe a girl). Gretchen and Ray insist upon strict rules involving clothing and language around their baby that Rusty and Judy, and Ray's mother Sunny and her boyfriend Klaus, must agree upon to be a part of the child's life. Can these grandparents come to terms with the rules, or will they surreptitiously try to break them? The answer may surprise you.

I found Darlington's writing plain and straightforward; she is more concerned with exploring her ideas on social interactions than she is on perfecting her prose. While at times this made the book sound more like a story a friend was telling you over coffee rather than literature, it allowed the reader to be brought into the tale more easily. Many of the characters in Darlington's book are a bit two-dimensional, although Judy is very well-developed and eventually Rusty is, as well, although it takes most of the book to get there. I would have liked more character development with Gretchen, Henry and Carson, as well, however the book is more concerned with the parent's perspectives than that of the children. The author's primary concern is: How do typical Midwestern meat-and-potatoes middle-agers come to terms with the culture shock of modern gender and sexuality, especially when it is thrust upon them by their immediate family? I also felt that Darlington too much effort describing the minute details of the actions of the characters, and that it distracted her from exploring the deeper motivations of her characters.

Overall Maybe Baby was a fairly easy and enjoyable read. It had potential to inspire deeper thought into the social constructs of gender and sexuality and how they are percieved by a generation that came of age in a time where such matters were not discussed, but ultimately fell a bit short of that goal.