From a working single mother, a colorful account of the struggles and triumphs of raising her son while maintaining her sanity.
Shortly into her marriage to her high-school sweetheart, Stoddard realized that her husband was an alcoholic. Nonetheless, the young, energetic couple was determined to make it work and, when conception failed, to adopt a child. Stoddard captures the journey of her marriage, her adoption and her eventual divorce through a series of surprisingly upbeat, idiosyncratic anecdotes that provide a window into the life of an ordinary couple. Tragic moments of the author’s travails with her husband’s alcoholism–including his violent attempts to keep her out of AA meetings–mingle with lighthearted reminiscences of her son’s early years as a precocious child. Stoddard is careful never to probe too deeply into the pain of her marriage or the emotional difficulties of divorce, choosing instead to focus on the practical pratfalls of parenting, like the hiring of a series of young and inept live-in nannies. She hires seven of them over the course of a few years, each bringing a unique brand of chaos to the Stoddard family–one invites a married man over at night, another has a substance-abuse problem, another leaps from being excruciatingly shy to embarrassingly provocative. Stoddard balances her role as an employer with the necessity of being a de facto parent to these would-be caregivers. The author’s job begins to require an increasing amount of travel, and her ex-husband’s escalating destructive behavior forces her to make difficult decisions about her son’s relationship with his father. Yet the anecdotes court the unspoken traumas without further analyzing the emotional effect on mother and son. Stoddard only provides a survey of young Matt’s adolescence, as viewed through family vacations, the death of pets, holidays, etc. The generally sophisticated and congenial prose style and anecdotal structure make for a pleasant read, but readers may wonder at the author’s unwillingness to go deeper.
A warm portrait of motherhood and the struggles of being a single parent.