Nonfiction writer Frazier (Travels in Siberia, 2010, etc.) delivers his first novel, an uneven comedy of domestic disasters.
Inspired by his “Shouts & Murmurs” character from the New Yorker, the Cursing Mommy, in page-length doses, is hilarious. She skitters from one impossibly ruinous situation to the next, ending the day with a boozy balm under the covers. Her daily blog offers advice and meditation techniques for other harried ladies, though the Cursing Mommy, an odd pastiche of foulmouthed comic and Martha Stewart, ends most posts either furious or defeated by the treasures life flings her way. The question is whether Frazier can move his Mommy from the compact page to the full-length narrative. Alas, Cursing Mommy’s shtick grows old, and there is little plot to prop her up. Husband Larry is foundering at work, but Cursing Mommy might be able to smooth the problem with her questionable charm, as the Boss is besotted by her violent outbursts. Sons Kyle (who swoons and rashes up at school) and Trevor (heavily medicated to prevent either sociopathy or pranking) bring little joy to Cursing Mommy, as most of her weekends are spent “volunteering” for school building repairs or bringing Trevor to his therapist. She takes seriously the self-help advice of modern-day sage M. Foler Tuohy, a composer of opaque bons mots. But when the red-faced guru runs off with her best friend, she curses the day she got her book group to switch from anti-Bush biographies to Tuohy’s goofy inspirationals. There is some closure to the year’s travails, though one suspects the Cursing Mommy is simply cursed, unable to escape the Promethean-like tragedies of domestic life.
There have been many great satires of the domestic world (Fay Weldon comes to mind), but Frazier’s Cursing Mommy seems trapped within her own joke.