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A typical contemporary-life sit-com, simplistic rather than observant in detail, and too unimaginative to be funny. As told by 14-year-old Jenny, the oldest, the story begins with the four Skinner children and the Skinner father arriving home to final the Skinner mother--who apparently has never given the family a hint of her discontent--walking back and forth in front of the house with a picket sign, ""ON STRIKE/UNFAIR LABOR PRACTICES."" While Mrs. Skinner camps in a front-yard tent, signs up other women into Wives/MAD, and gives newspaper and TV interviews, the deprived family runs out of clean clothes (then goes round in pink underwear after Jenny does an unsorted wash), subsists on Burger King fare and frozen turkey roll (though More had a half-time job at the library it seems that neither Jenny, her father, nor almost 13-year-old Ben had ever packed a lunch or lent a hand at housework), and organizes their own group, CHAOS: Children and Husbands Against Offensive Strikes. But when Jenny and her sister find themselves doing the worst of the housework, as well as baby-sitting for other struck fathers, they see the light and cross to their mother's side--staying home from school as their contribution to the general strike. After 19 days, a cloud of smoke from Ben's burnt chicken brings the whole family, More included, rushing to the kitchen--and it's not long until Dad, who had previously refused to negotiate, is conceding, ""We've all learned something. Not just how to mop a floor, but how much there is to keeping it mopped--and us fed--and the clothes clean."" So now, Jenny concludes, all the family members have chores and rights, and ""the Skinners are no longer a normal middle-class family."" Or perhaps Tolan is just about ten years late in marking the boundaries of the normal middle-class family.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1983
Publisher: Macmillan