This witty collection of stories details the relationship between a maniacally oddball mother, Jean, and her stoic daughter, Caroline. Caroline’s stories about her mother and how her actions affect who Caroline is begin when she is age eight and chronologically advance into her adulthood – and they do so with shock, humor, and wisdom.
From the beginning, the author sets an eye-opening stage for the story and does not let up for the remainder of the book. Jean explains, for example, that Caroline’s father wasn’t around because he had been declared “legally stupid” by New York State and also “had been ordered by the courts to work go-nowhere jobs, remain emotionally void, and contract sexually transmitted diseases until he was dead.”
M.L. Pressman writes fluidly and captivatingly. Some stories leave a reader’s jaw hanging open, such as Jean’s movie theater scavenge for free popcorn. Others will have readers laughing and cheering her on, such as when a teacher calls Caroline “garbage” in front of the class and the next day Jean dumps a large Hefty bag of rotting garbage on the teacher’s desk to demonstrate the difference between her daughter and actual garbage.
The author’s writing lends much to these outlandish but creditable stories, as she frequently interjects humor and wit akin to Tina Fey’s or Amy Poehler’s. (Jean calls her very unsafe car “Cujo the Corona,” for example.) But this is not just a hilarious story. It is the common — albeit outsized — story of the often-tough journey to acceptance and understanding between mothers and daughters. Along with sarcasm and wit, there is also introspection and emotion.
Like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, these mini-stories of significant moments in Caroline’s life fit together to create a perfect picture of a far-from-perfect life. Shocking, touching, humorous, and occasionally down-to-earth, this quick read is a roller coaster ride that keeps readers wondering what life-altering, character-shaping shenanigans will happen next.
Also available in paperback.