Second-novelist Coll (karlmarx.com, 2000) energetically chronicles a soccer mom’s bumpy ride to tranquility as she deals with issues of finance, family, and self-esteem.
Our frazzled narrator, Jane Kramer, wife of Leon Kramer of Kramer’s Discount Furniture Store, is one of those women who are smart but fear they’re failing life: Jane is friendless, dislikes her job, money is tight, and her marriage is souring. She works at the family store with Leon and his old uncle Seymour because they can’t afford to pay outsiders—the merchandise is cheap and dated, someone is stealing from the till, and local preservationists are suing them for pulling down an allegedly historic barn when they rebuilt the store. Teenaged son Justin is into Goth music, dresses entirely in black, and has been suspended from school. Jane also suspects that Leon may be having an affair with voluptuous Delia, the furniture saleswoman advising them on how to improve business. Jane has taken to spending her lunch hour in the nearby graveyard on the Rockville Pike—a notorious Washington, DC, strip-mall highway—where F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald are buried. The graves could help business if, Delia suggests, they sell patio furniture with Fitzgerald associations. While Jane rereads the Fitzgerald novels to get ideas, she also becomes involved, through another soccer woman, in Memories Inc., a scrapbook merchandising system run, like Tupperware, out of homes. When Justin heads to New York without telling her, and Leon goes on a so-called business trip with Delia, Jane, in a panic, heads after them and has adventures of her own, including counseling a famous Washington trial lawyer and narrowly missing an encounter with thieves at the Plaza. By the close, though, a serendipitous series of events resolve misunderstandings and improve family fortunes, plus formerly hapless Jane no longer feels unloved and friendless.
A modern comedy of manners that at times tries too hard to entertain.