A British novel asks who is more maddening: a couple of preschool boys, or their man-child father.
Mary loves her children, and everyone tells her she should adore her husband Joel, who is sexy and romantic and so good with their sons. But still…she wishes he wouldn’t throw the dirty laundry in the direction of the basket, and wouldn’t ignore the pots and pans when he’s washing up and expect she do all the boring bits of childcare, and housework and cooking, and then go and impress everyone with his occasional culinary masterpiece. Mary’s list of complaints is so unruly she begins organizing it on a spreadsheet. Unbeknownst to Joel, he has six months to prove himself not totally worthless (she gives him an allotment of points per month) or else she’s going to divorce him. Her best friend Becky is stunned—would she really divorce her husband because of teabags left on the counter? She would. Or at least she believes this until the novel’s end when she realizes there are other issues at play. Unfortunately, this leaves hundreds of pages of Mary’s unpleasantness. Occasionally, Hopkinson’s keen observations are funny, but too often the carping is tedious and the minutia of Mary’s fault-finding comes to seem pathological. Thankfully, there are distractions along the way, like Mary’s obsession with her friend Mitzi’s perfect life (which includes a multimillion-dollar, eco-friendly vacation home, housing spotlessly attired children, cared for by efficient nannies). That is until she discovers the revolting peccadillos of Mitzi and her straitlaced husband. And then there’s Becky, who is considering motherhood but is afraid her partner Cara (whom Mary has a crush on) will leave her. Joel, the center of Mary’s fury, is left in the shadows until the end, when they are forced to either grow up or get divorced.
A mixed bag—the sly comedy and cleverness regarding the fate of modern women (nothing—your body, your house, your children—looks as it does in the magazines) is almost drowned by the relentless anger of the heroine.