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by Nicole Stansbury

Pub Date: March 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-7867-0978-2

Powerfully written if narratively undercharged debut is more a portrait of a monstrous fictional Mommie Dearest (by a remarkably forgiving daughter) than a compelling story of alienation and understanding.

Like many contemporary writers, Stansbury gets the details right, but the characters, however outrageously they behave, seem more concepts-in-costume. The storyline is equally undernourished. The narrator, younger daughter Lucy Taylor, begins her reminisces of life with Mom when still in grade school, as the family's trailer goes off the road en route to Utah, where they are to live Her mother Miriam didn't want to leave California and their home , the picturesque “House on the Hill,” but her father Bob suspected Miriam might have been seeing other men. An understandable fear since Miriam,, self-centered and impulsive, is a Mom who likes to walk on the wild side. Lucy relates next how Miriam, deciding she has Mexican blood, calls herself “Juanita” and works at a local Mexican restaurant for a few days. She also flirts with Mormonism, reads Lucy's diary, and steals whatever she can from restaurants. Bob tries to please Miriam, but Miriam wants more than he can give her. The two divorce, which means Lucy and sister Jen must cope with Mom's lies, machinations, and moves. Miriam keeps moving from California to Alaska, where she ends up as she chases her dreams—as protean as her personality. In Alaska, she claims to have Tlingit blood; follows her unsuitable lovers—two of whom she marries—while along the way getting her Master’s and, incredibly, becoming a psychologist. Lucy, who loves Dad and the orderly life he lives, resents Mom's tastes (ketchup is her vegetable of choice) and her behavior. Still, the now grown-up Lucy, whose own life has been difficult, is amazingly grateful for Mom's zest for living and the lessons she taught her about life.

Energetic, vivid—and unconvincing: Mom is just too much