OF MEN AND THEIR MOTHERS

Mameve Medwell

 In Mameve Medwed’s Of Men and Their Mothers, there are as many different kinds of mothers as there are men: good, good-enough, not so hot and utterly terrible.

Is Maisie Grey-Pollock one of the good ones? She asks herself that question every day of her life, as she tries to navigate the murky waters of motherhood.

As a single mother, she adores her teenage son, to be sure, and is always trying to calibrate how to guide him without being too controlling and too laissez faire. But now, her son’s girlfriend has suddenly come to stay,

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 In Mameve Medwed’s Of Men and Their Mothers, there are as many different kinds of mothers as there are men: good, good-enough, not so hot and utterly terrible.

Is Maisie Grey-Pollock one of the good ones? She asks herself that question every day of her life, as she tries to navigate the murky waters of motherhood.

As a single mother, she adores her teenage son, to be sure, and is always trying to calibrate how to guide him without being too controlling and too laissez faire. But now, her son’s girlfriend has suddenly come to stay, forcing Maisie to mother the girl by default. Add to that mix is an ex mother-in-law who refuses to let a divorce blunt her edge or her power, and an employee with her own son problems who, nevertheless, looks up to Maisie as a mentor. Maisie is getting it from all sides.

How does she take care of everybody, continue to run her own business that involves, well, a kind of professional caretaking, and carve out a life for herself? Especially when that life involves a new man with his own mother-related baggage?

In Of Men and their Mothers, we watch as Maisie does some growing up herself. She learns to how to negotiate all kinds of love and figures out her place in a world—a world in which values of sex, of class, of work, of friendship clash, and where the very nature of being a mother seems up for grabs.

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  • Avon A
  • Paperback
  • April 2009
  • 304 Pages
  • 9780060831226

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About Mameve Medwell

 Mameve Medwed is also the author of Mail, Host Family, The End of an Error, and How Elizabeth Barrett Browning Saved My Life (which received a 2007 Massachusetts Book Honor Award). Her stories, essays, and reviews have appeared in many publications including the Missouri Review, Redbook, the Boston Globe, Yankee, the Washington Post, and Newsday. Born in Maine, she and her husband have two sons and live in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Praise

“The mother-in-law, that staple of stand-up comedy routines. Does she still have any power left after decades of pummeling? In Mameve Medwed’s new novel, Of Men and Their Mothers, she certainly does. Ina Pollock, Maisie Grey’s loathsome ex-mother-in-law, can raise the reader’s pulse with a single phone call… As Medwed’s narrator, Maisie is great at chattily spooling things along. (“About my job,” she begins one chapter. “But, first, let me backtrack to high school.”) The book is crammed with nice touches like Ina’s potpie business, which sells, among other things, the Drumstick Bangers and Mash, the Turkey Trot and the Wings à la King… lively writing.”—The New York Times Book Review

“[A] zany, highly comical page-turner. Medwed…is a seasoned and lively storyteller.” Emily Cook, Booklist

“A book that’s buoyed throughout by Medwed’s nervy sense of humor…a thoroughly absorbing page turner…Medwed creates a vivid sense of pace, lampooning Harvard as the center of the known universe…Medwed has a great eye for physical detail…a deft prose stylist, she peppers her writing with zingy one-liners and memorable turns of phrase. She is especially adroit at crafting dialogue that keeps the narrative humming…this mother-in-law from Hades is an inspired comic creation…Medwed refuses to let the stereotypes stand. Her characters don’t remain inside convenient little boxes.”—The Boston Globe

“Quirky characters keep this drama of relationships in their many forms interesting. A quick and satisfying read; recommended for all public libraries.”—Karen Core, Detroit Public Library, for Library Journal

Discussion Questions

Are mother/son relationships more fraught than daughter/son ones?

Both Rex and Gabriel are mama’s boys. What’s the difference between them?

Is Maisie doomed to repeat history with Gabriel? Does the influence of a man’s mother linger after she’s dead? How do you predict things will work out for Maisie and Gabriel?

Should Maisie have taken in September—what would you have done? What is the best way to deal with a son’s girlfriend you disapprove of?

Did Maisie handle the powder in the backpack in a reasonable way? Can you suggest alternatives?

Some of you may know that Seamus is a repeat character from Mameve Medwed’s first novel. Does or does that not work for you? Does his presence add something?

How do the symbols of breast milk and chicken potpies take on meaning throughout the book?

How did Maisie’s mentoring of Darlene change Darlene? And change Maisie, too?

What role does class play in this novel in relationto Maisie’s background, the Pollocks, Darlene and Carlene, September, Gabriel. What are the telling symbols of class—interiors, clothes, residences, and how do they work out in the course of the book. How does snobbery affect the relationships among the characters?

Name the parallels between all the mothers and sons, daughters and mothers-in-law in the book.

Is Ina Pollock truly the mother-in-law from hell or is there some redemption?

Would you consider Factotum, Inc. a suitable career for Maisie? What does this choice of profession show about Maisie other than the potential for comedy?

Who gets their just desserts? Rex, Maisie? Ina? Seamus?

How does humor work to mitigate painful things? What are the serious themes and issues in the book underlying the comedy?