Raising a toddler is not an easy job and sometimes mothers don't get the credit they deserve. However, have no fear, Stephanie Stiles is here to show us how to handle motherhood and keep our sanity at the same time, thanks to her debut novel, "Take it Like a Mom." Keep in mind that this is not a self-help book, although it may look and sound like one from the cover and title. Instead, it is a humorous fictional account of all the things that tend to drive moms a little crazy at times.
Annie Fingardt Forster is a lawyer who has become a stay-at-home mom raising a three year-old son and expecting another baby. She navigates the choppy waters of preschool politics, judgmental parents (including her own mother) and emotional cable guys while also dealing with her husband's sudden job loss. She is left to figure out what she wants for herself and her expanding family (along with her expanding waistline).
I could definitely relate to Annie in many ways, first and foremost being a mother, of course. She and I have similar personalities as well as similar ways of handling the situations thrown at us. We also both like to take care of other people aside from our kids (spouses, friends, acquaintances, etc.). Annie handles every situation thrown her way with grace and good-natured humor. She has a good heart that goes a long way to help this story stay upbeat and entertaining, even when life is kicking her in the (large maternity sized) pants. Not only did I enjoy reading about her, but also about the supporting characters. Ms. Stiles made the "villains" into caricatures that were so detestable that I couldn't help but dislike them along with Annie. She made everyone else fun and interesting enough for me to want to get to know them better. I found myself laughing out loud throughout the story, as well. Ms. Stiles' humor is reflected through Annie and all the other characters she has created. I also loved the pop culture references and any novel with even a handful of those gets brownie points from me.
On the topic of humor, however, she tends to throw in a lot of misunderstandings during conversations between Annie and other characters. These are the kind that remind me of a cross between an Abbott and Costello routine (such as "Who's on first?") and the scene in "The Lion King" where Timon and Pumbaa get all confused over Simba's uncle ("The monkey is his uncle?!?") These misunderstandings were cute and funny the first few times. Then they started to get old and made me wish she had some other shtick to use. Along with that, Annie tended to come off as ditzy at times when we knew that she was intelligent and resourceful at other times. Maybe it was pregnancy brain, but she never really excused it as that either. She would try to convince herself that she was right about something and then second guess herself after the convincing part was done. Aside from these issues, I wish there had been a real conflict that wasn't resolved within one or two chapters. With her husband's job loss and everything else going on, I was hoping that there would be more leverage with which to create a conflict that would take a while to resolve before reaching the conclusion. It seemed like a lot of situations were just stressful moments that could be easily resolved within a sitcom's amount of time.
Overall, "Take it Like a Mom" was a hilarious and entertaining look at motherhood and all the other minutae surrounding it. I like how Annie was able to show that she did as much as a mom as (if not more than) some people do at their office jobs on a daily basis. It's validating for all moms to read, whether they work or stay-at-home and I found myself cheering for her (and also laughing or crying with her) throughout the entire story. Ms. Stiles gives us a nice balance between the daily mundane routines and the little things that stop us in our tracks. "Take it Like a Mom" is a "feel good" novel and a light beach read that is perfect for these long, hot summer days (and also something you can cozy up to in the winter). While the topic is geared toward moms, I feel that any woman could read and enjoy it.
Thanks to Elizabeth Tobin, formerly of Penguin Books, for the review copy in exchange for an honest review.
Penguin Books is giving away three copies of "Take it Like a Mom" to some lucky readers in the US and Canada. Check out Stephanie's interview with CLC and enter for your chance to win!
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