Class Mom by Laurie Gelman

Have you ever been a class mom? These women(or men) serve as the teacher’s right hand person and handle a lot of the grunt work. My mom was a class mom multiple times for both myself and my younger siblings. I remember her organizing parties, meeting with teachers, volunteering in my classrooms, and organizing events for me all throughout school. She was always busy and I thought she pulled everything together effortlessly. When I was looking for a new book to read and saw Class Mom by Laurie Gelman in the catalog, I decided to give it a try because I was feeling nostalgic about all the work that my mom put in to my classrooms when I was younger.

Class Mom by Laurie Gelman is a hilarious romp into the life of Jen Dixon. Jen is married to Ron, who she continuously refers to as her ‘first husband’ much to his annoyance. Jen and Ron have an adorable five-year-old son named Max who is just starting kindergarten. Jen is not new to the school system as she has two older daughters, by two different men, who are now in college. Jen had a lively youth following bands around the country and the world. Her two daughters were born as a result of her carefree younger days. Jen raised her two daughters with some help from her parents and when she met Ron, her life seemed to fall together pretty perfectly.

Now that Max is starting kindergarten, Jen finds herself being prodded into becoming class mom for Max’s class. Nina, the PTA president and Jen’s best friend, keeps telling Jen that the new parents have a lot to learn from Jen’s expertise and experience. Jen thinks that’s all baloney and it’s just because she’s older than the other parents that Nina is asking her to be class mom. Regardless of those factors, Jen soon finds herself as the class mom to Ms. Ward’s new class of kindergarteners!

Jen’s tenure as class mom is full of hilarity, snarkiness, offensive, and uproariously funny emails and interactions. She holds nothing back in her emails to the other class parents and is sure to note specific response times to her requests. Jen is responsible for assigning conference times, finding field-trip volunteers, and doing whatever the teacher Ms. Ward wants her to do.  She soon finds herself as the middle-man between Ms. Ward and the other class parents. The interactions between Jen and everyone at Max’s school are ripe with hilarity from Max’s supersexy kindergarten teacher who has a very odd way of running her classroom, an old flame of Jen’s popping up as one of the parents of another student, a mother whose son is severely allergic to almost everything, and two moms who Jen can never seem to tell apart! Outside of Jen’s interactions at Max’s school, Jen herself is struggling to get in shape to do a mud run to make up for last year’s disastrous attempt, trying to figure out what’s going on with her two older daughters, and working to keep her relationship solid with her husband. This book was very entertaining. Definitely recommended.

The Divorce Papers by Susan Rieger

Do you like reading screenplays? Poetry? What about novels that aren’t written in the traditional sense? I’ve read many novels-in-verse, but the author has to really bring their A-game if I’m to be impressed with a novel-in-verse. Books written in a different way than I am used to take me a little while to get invested in and as a result, I usually avoid them. My latest listen, however, was not done in a traditional format and I loved it.

The Divorce Papers by Susan Rieger was a whim of a book to listen to. I was searching through OverDrive having just finished my previous book. With none of my holds available for check-out, I honestly picked The Divorce Papers because the title sounded interesting, the cover was intriguing, and I knew it would be ripe with family drama. Had I clicked through and read the blurb provided by the publisher, I probably would have skipped reading it. I’m glad I impulse checked this audiobook out.

The Divorce Papers is not told like your traditional novel. Instead it’s told through a series of office memos, news articles, emails, legal papers, and personal correspondence. While you may think that this storytelling style leaves readers with the task of filling in much of the plot, you would be sadly mistaken. Each section is so detailed that while there may be gaps in dates, there are no gaps in plot and detail. You also benefit from a very precise timeline since everything in the book is dated. I greatly enjoyed that.

This book is the story of a messy divorce of two very high-profile members of a close-knit community. Sophie Diehl, a twenty-nine-year-old criminal law associate at a New England law firm has been dragged into doing her very first civil lawsuit. She was asked to do the intake interview for Mia Meiklejohn Durkheim, the daughter of her firm’s most important client. The only reason Sophie was asked to do the intake interview was because the partner who would have handled it was out of town. Having been promised by her boss that she would only have to do the intake interview and nothing more, Sophie went on with her regular criminal law work.

Nothing is ever quite that simple. Mia requests Sophie to be her lawyer, a request that the partners can’t turn down because she is the daughter of such an important client. Mia is a Mayflower descendant whose father runs a company and whose mother was an heiress. She was served with divorce papers at a popular local restaurant by her husband, Dr. Daniel Durkheim, Chief of the Department of Pediatric Oncology. This will be Daniel’s second divorce, Mia’s first, and Sophie’s first one to handle as well. Despite that fact, Mia is insistent that Sophie be the one to handle her divorce. What follows is a tense battle between Mia and Daniel for custody of their 10-year-old daughter Jane, for control of their assets, for alimony/child support, and a myriad of other issues that pop up in a divorce. While Sophie is handling Mia’s divorce, other letters, emails, and office memos show how this divorce is affecting her specifically. Readers get a look into her relationships with her work colleagues, her family, her friends, and her lovers.

To be honest, my mind faded out through some sections when the narrator read the legal papers. If I want to read this book again, I will definitely pick up a physical copy. Because this book deals with a divorce, there are many sections talking about alimony and the division of assets, aka lots of numbers. Luckily each section of legal documents was usually followed by a personal letter or email that broke down the dense talking into something I actually understood. Don’t let the lawyer talk throw you off reading or listening to this book though. The storyline and interpersonal relationships more than make up for the lawyer speak. I greatly enjoyed this book, more than I expected.


This book is also available in the following formats:

Happiness for Beginners by Katherine Center

Happiness for Beginners by Katherine Center is a book about starting over. Helen Carpenter is thirty-two years old and has been divorced for a year. She is just fine with how her life is going, thank you very much, but if she actually thinks about it, she really needs to take a break to try and put herself together again. Her much younger brother, younger by ten years, mentions off-hand about a wilderness survival course. Thinking that this is exactly what she needs, Helen decides to sign up and give it a try. Right when she’s getting ready to leave, her brother’s best friend, Jake, tells her that he is also coming on the trip and just so happens to need a ride. Great. This life-changing journey has turned into a cross-country trip with her younger brother’s annoying best friend. Not what she wanted at all.

The wilderness survival course that Helen has signed up for is three weeks long and puts her and a group of people smack dab in the remotest part of a mountain range in Wyoming. Her fellow survivalists are nothing like what she was expecting. Instead of the hippie folks and rugged back-packers she was envisioning, Helen finds herself at orientation with a group of college students all significantly younger than her and who are basically doing this course as a way to get college credit. The person in charge doesn’t even look like he’s out of high school, for goodness sake! Helen is clearly out of her element. This point is further emphasized when the instructor lays out a series of very strict rules. Helen is in way over her head.

In order to begin this course with a clean slate, she tells Jake to pretend like he doesn’t even know her. She wants to begin anew. This sort of backfires on her when Helen realizes that Jake has become the popular guy and also that no one else in her group really likes her that much. Such begins Helen’s road to rediscovery, a wilderness survival course that is nothing like she thought it would be with people she wasn’t expecting. With sore, blistery feet, a medical emergency, a summer blizzard, and love blooming on rocky trails, Happiness for Beginners is a breath of fresh air as Helen works to remake herself into the new person she wants to become.


This book is also available as an Overdrive eAudiobook, which is how I listened to this book.

Mean Streak by Sandra Brown

mean-streakMean Streak by Sandra Brown is a stomach-clenching story of survival in the mountains of North Carolina. Dr. Emory Charbonneau is a pediatrician and a marathon runner competitively training for her latest marathon. She decides to go away for the weekend to run a mountain trail in North Carolina. Leaving her husband, Jeff, after a bad argument, she takes off and spends the night in a tiny town to begin her run early the next morning. Running the trail by herself, Emory goes missing, leaving no trace behind except for her car abandoned in the trailhead parking lot.

By the time Jeff reports her missing, a  snowstorm has blown into the area, leaving fog and ice everywhere, halting any search for Emory, and destroying any clues about her whereabouts. Local police suspect Jeff of an ‘instant divorce’ and dive deep into his life, looking for anything that would lead him to want to get rid of his wife.

While suspicion is cast on Jeff, Emory regains consciousness from an unexplained head injury, finds herself in a mysterious cabin, and being held captive by a man who will not even tell Emory his name. She is willing to do anything to escape him, but the snowstorm raging outside force her to stay. Emory and this mystery man soon find themselves swept into a dangerous encounter with some people who have their own way of handling things. Emory soon finds herself forced to confront her own morals and sense of justice.

While local police and the FBI narrow in on her husband’s deception and the identity of her captor, Emory finds herself wondering about the true motives of her captor. Her initial fear falls away, leading her to think about his past and what could have been so violent that would have necessitated a complete move off the grid. This novel weaves together multiple storylines from many different perspectives, allowing readers to glimpse some motives without fully being able to put the whole story together. Mean Streak is ripe with tales of deceit, love, and survival that grabbed my attention and had me deeply invested in the lives of each character.


This book is also available in the following formats:

Cleaning Nabokov’s House by Leslie Daniels

The pleasure in reading a book like Cleaning Nabokov’s House is to enjoy vicariously the survival and ultimate triumph of an average (well, maybe not so average) person.

Barb Barrett is a wife and mother in a small town who loses what she loves most (her father, cousin and children) in relatively quick succession. When she is at her lowest point, she is unemployed and more or less homeless – living out of her car and reduced to watching her children from afar. She lost custody because the judge, lawyers, and social workers in the small, upstate New York town is allied with her husband, a hometown boy. A meal may consist of boiled lettuce; she has one pair of good pants.

Her luck begins to change when she buys a house formerly occupied by Vladimir Nabokov. She finds a manuscript presumably written by the author of Lolita. The reader picks up bits about Nabokov’s life and works and, I, at least, wanted to read more of his actual novels.

Leslie Daniels, in her first novel, creates a character who is endearingly quirky and self-reliant. We root for her success and hope for her former husband’s (the ex-person’s) downfall.

For Better: The Science of a Good Marriage by Tara Parker-Pope

Tara Parker-Pope decided to gather all the science and research about marriage and relationships into one book. Her impetus was the failure of her own marriage; she wanted to know if she could have done anything  to prevent her divorce.

This self-help book is unusual in that the author isn’t spinning conjecture; her “advice” is all based on research. Some of the most interesting studies were about arguments; turns out the subject matter and frequency is less important than the level of scorn.  She also warns that the first three minutes of an argument are critical. The outcome can be less damaging, the more open and less explosive you are.

For Better is full of practical advice about how differences in financial style, child rearing and household chores affect a relationship.

Often, commonly held wisdom was not found to be the case in real life. Very useful for long-married and newly married couples.

The Three Weissmanns of Westport by Cathleen Schine

After 48 years of marriage, Joseph has asked Betty for a divorce, citing “irreconcilable differences”. This confuses Betty because of course they have “irreconcilable differences” – what did that have to do with divorce? And thus begins a tale of manners and family ties, heartbreak and second chances.

To save money Betty and her two adult daughters – each facing life changing situations of their own – move into a dilapidated cottage on Long Island, loaned to them by an benevolent cousin. It is here that each woman faces her new future, making connections to their neighbors, town and each other that are both unexpected and comforting.

The Three Weissmanns of Westport by Cathleen Schine is a decidedly modern look at society, inspired by the novels of Jane Austen (you’ll recognize a lot of Sense and Sensibility and a bit of Pride and Prejudice here) Witty, thoughtful, sharply observant, this is a novel of picking up the pieces and starting anew.

Reader’s Recipe

  • Check out Mary Alice Monroe’s new book, Time is a River.time-is-a-river4
  • Take one recent breast cancer survivor (Mia Landan)
  • Add one cheating husband who files for divorce
  • Locate in a remote, dilapidated fishing cabin in the mountains of North Carolina
  • Sift in mysterious, scandalous details about the former owner (legendary fly-fisher Kate Watkins)
  • Temper Mia’s quest for the truth about Kate with her friend’s command to not dig up the ruinous past
  • Add prescribed tall and handsome love interest
  • Simmer for 369 pages
  • Top with predictable (convenient but still ultimately satisfying) plot line
  • Note: This is a quick and easy recipe. Not for the gourmand, but perfect for reading at the beach (or in a little fishing cabin in the woods!) End result: another popular novel by a New York Time’s bestselling author. Serves multitudes. Bon appétit!