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A gentleman of means, neither young nor decrepit. Looks irrelevant. Generous to a fault. Criminal record not a problem. Witty, mature, decisive widow has recently relocated to New York City in order to be very, very close to her grown children (who prefer managing their own lives, thank you very much). Their lifelong gratitude and relief (plus their lovely mother — as long as you move out of state) will be your REWARD. Not offer ...
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A gentleman of means, neither young nor decrepit. Looks irrelevant. Generous to a fault. Criminal record not a problem. Witty, mature, decisive widow has recently relocated to New York City in order to be very, very close to her grown children (who prefer managing their own lives, thank you very much). Their lifelong gratitude and relief (plus their lovely mother — as long as you move out of state) will be your REWARD. Not offer of any kind will be rufused.
Mom is Phyllis Geronomous (née Phyllis Steen, so Geronomous seems a big improvement), and she lives in South Florida. While at 69, she's no longer young, she finds little appealing about the lifestyle of her many elderly neighbors, who restlessly patrol the local boardwalk and look forward only to early-bird dinners at the Rascal House. Dedicated to finding something a little less terminal, Phyllis bids farewell to her dead husband Ira at the cemetery—he doesn't answer, but he never said a lot when he was alive either—and returns to New York City to get into the hair of her unhappy children: Sigourney (née Susan), a 40ish stockbroker whose business and love life are falling apart; gay Bruce, whose "Queer Santa" greeting-card line is failing and whose lover won't commit to marriage; and fat, whiny Sharon, whose husband Barney is a deadbeat. Guilty because she never had time to go to PTA meetings, Phyllis now wants to fix their lives. At the same time, they want her out of their hair and back with the palm trees. So, the three launch Operation Geezer Quest to find Phyllis a rich husband, complete with a Bergdorf Goodman makeover and a suite at the Pierre. Along the way, with enough Yiddish for a whole season of The Nanny, Phyllis doles out tough love and wise words. Finally, everyone's life is improved, and Mom begins her eighth decade with good sex, a large sapphire ring, and an offshore bank account in the Caymans.
Some laughs and refreshing senior-citizen romance, but more like the outline for a TV sitcom than a novel.
Ira, I'm leaving you." It wasn't easy for Phyllis to give her husband of forty-seven years the news, but she was doing it. She had always told the truth. All her life people had called her "difficult" or "tough" or "insensitive," but actuallyshe was just honest.
"I can't take it, Ira," she told him. "You know I never likedFlorida. I came down here for you, because you wanted to." She paused. She didn't want to blame. It was a free country and Ira hadn't forced her. "Well, you'd always supported me," Phyllis admitted. "Let's face it: you earned the money, so I owed it to you. But it was your retirement, Ira, not mine. I wasn't ready to retire. But did you give me a choice?" Ira said nothing. Ofcourse, she didn't expect him to. The fact was that in their forty-seven years of married life he'd rarely said much. Still, by some marital osmosis, she always knew what his position was on any given subject. Now she realized that the wave of disapproval that she expected to feel had not materialized. This meant that either Ira was sulking or that he wasn't there at all. She paused. Even for her, considered a loud mouth by everyone all her life, even for her it was hard to say this. But it had to be said. "You didn't pay enough attention to them, Ira. You needed me at the company, and I did what I had to do. But the children needed us. And I don't think they got enough of us, Ira. Things have gone wrong for them. Sharon with Barney . . . Susan unmarried . . . and Bruce!" Phyllis paused and bit her lip. There were some things best left unsaid. "I don't want to criticize you, but I don't think you were there for them, Ira. You paid for the best schools,but they didn't learn how to live. They don't know what's important. And I think they need their mother. I'm going up to take care of the children, Ira. I wasn't a good enough mother to them then, but I can try and make up for it now."
Phyllis sighed deeply. The sun was merciless, and she thought of the skin cancer that Ira had developed on his bald head. She should wear a hat, but she couldn't stand hats or sunglasses or any of the extra chazerai that most people schlepped around in Florida: sunscreen, lip balm, eye shades, visors. Who had the time? Florida was the place that looked like paradise but wound up deadly. "Ira, Thanksgiving was unbearable. Eating a turkey in the Rascal House yesterday and having the kids calling only out of a sense of obligation? What kind of holiday was that? It wasn't good for them and it wasn't good for me. It was depressing, Ira." She lowered her voice. Phyllis wasn't vain, but she lied about her age. "My seventieth birthday is on the twelfth, Ira. It scares me. Then there's Hanukkah, Christmas, and New Year's coming, I won't survive if I try to do it down here. Do you understand?"
Nothing. No response. Phyllis told herself she shouldn't be surprised. Always she talked, he listened. But at least at one time he had listened. In Florida, in the last several years, he seemed to have collapsed in on himself. His world was only as large as his chest cavity and the illness that resided in it. Phyllis had made sure he took his pills, watched his diet, and that he'd exercised. But conversation? A luxury. Phyllis sighed again. What did she expect?
Phyllis turned her back on Ira and wiped moisture out of her eyes. She wasn't a crier. It was ridiculous to get all emotional. She knew that and fiercely told herself to stop it. She turned back. "You won't be alone here," she said. "Iris Blumberg is just over there by the willow tree, and Max Feiglebaum isn't far away." She paused. "I know you don't have patience for Sylvia, but she'll visit every week to tidy up."
There wasn't anything more to say. They had had a good marriage, she and Ira. There were those who saw her as pushy, as too outgoing, as egocentric. Not Ira. And he'd been wrong because she was all those things. You couldn't reach the age of sixty-nine, she mused, without knowing a little bit about yourself. Unless you were very pigheaded, or a man. Ira, a man, had never really understood her or learned a thing about himself. But then with men, how much was there to know?
With men, either they had a job or they didn't, they cheated or they didn't, they charmed you or they didn't. Ira had been an accountant before he retired, almost a decade ago. Ira was a good man. He worked and brought home his pay, didn't cheat, and didn't charm. But he had liked her. If he hadn't understood her, he had at least enjoyed her. And he'd given her three beautiful babies.
Phyllis thought of Susan, Bruce, and Sharon. Each had been so perfect, so gorgeous. Funny how babies grew up and became just as imperfect as any other adults.
She shook her head, dislodging the tangential thought. As she'd aged she hadn't, thank God, lost her memory. Instead, if anything, she remembered too much too often. "So anyway, Ira, I hope this doesn't come as a shock. You always knew I hated this place. Nobody down here but tourists, old Jews, and rednecks. I've got to leave you. It's for my mental health," she said, though she knew that Ira would hardly accept that as a legitimate excuse. "When did you become sane?" was one of the questions he'd frequently asked her. Despite his mild joke they both knew she was the voice of reason.
Olivia Goldsmith: My pleasure!
Olivia Goldsmith: Let's go.
Olivia Goldsmith: Sure. MARRYING MOM is the story of Phyllis Geronomous, a 69-year-old widow living in Florida, who decides it's best for her grown children if she returns to New York to help reparent them. Her three children wonder if they should kill her or themselves when they hear the news. Since that's illegal, they decide on other actions. They decide to get Mom married. The problem is, as Bruce the son puts it to the daughter Sig, "You're 38, you've got a great job and a fabulous haircut, and you can't even get a date. How are we going to get Mom married?" So they go out on Operation Geezer Quest. I won't tell you the rest.
Olivia Goldsmith: It's already been optioned by Cort Madden, the boys who brought you "Jumanji" and "Mr. Holland's Opus."
Olivia Goldsmith: Well, to a certain extent. BESTSELLER certainly was when it dealt with the publishing industry, FASHIONABLY LATE when it dealt with the career motherhood issue. MARRYING MOM actually happened -- at least the beginning of it did. My mother, who lives in Florida, called my sister, who lives in New York, and said she was going to move up. My sister called me and said she was going to kill herself. I suggested we send my mother on a cruise instead. Barbara, my sister, said it wouldn't do any good, because she'd come back like a boomerang. The only hope was marrying her off. Of course, nobody was as crazy as my dad was, so we never got her married. I just got a book out of it.
Olivia Goldsmith: Because it happened to me and I didn't like it. Sort of like THE FIRST WIVES CLUB. I tell you, when you look in the mirror and you see your mother's jowls and neck, you've got to either wear blinders, make peace with her, or call a really good plastic surgeon.
Olivia Goldsmith: That's a fair question. THE SIXTEEN PLEASURES and ALL OVER BUT THE SHOUTIN', an unbelievably good memoir by Rick Bragg. And LOLITA again. And Doris Lessing's UNDER MY SKIN the first volume of her autobiography.
Olivia Goldsmith: Because I can't get along with any of them. I would like somebody to handle all the aggravation, but the ones I know don't know how to handle aggravation, but manage to cause it. I don't recommend it, but I can't find someone else to do it.
Olivia Goldsmith: I didn't swing it at all. One of the rejected copies had probably been sent from a mail room out to a Hollywood scout. Out of the blue, while the book was still unpublished, I got a call from an agent, Todd Harris, saying that Warner, Paramount, and Touchstone were fighting over the book. Needless to say, after that, it did get published.
Olivia Goldsmith: Take a look at my picture and then take a wild guess.
Olivia Goldsmith: Umm, sometimes. With a book like MARRYING MOM or my new one, SWITCHEROO, I feel from the beginning that it's good material for a film. With some others, like the BESTSELLER or FASHIONABLY LATE, I think not. I still want to write those books, but I understand how Hollywood works. I still got to write what I wanted to write.
Olivia Goldsmith: Well, she's not my mom. My mom doesn't criticize or give advice. She's more of a martyr type. But I've spent some summers on Long Island, and now I live in Florida, and all of those women who I observed in my childhood are living in Hollywood, Florida, now. So I had plenty of inspiration.
Olivia Goldsmith: My current flame in my mind only is David E. Kelley. He created and writes the "Ally McBeal" show. I think it's terrific, some really good writing. There's lots of really good TV writing now. Of course, there's always "Seinfeld," but I think "Dharma and Greg" and some of the other new shows are fabulous.
Olivia Goldsmith: Absolutely! I always identify with the wallflower. Of course, I'm very fond of Annie in THE FIRST WIVES CLUB, Camilla Clapfish in BESTSELLER, and Sharon in MARRYING MOM. Sharon had to be the butt of the jokes to rise above, but she does, doesn't she? I'm glad she made you sad -- I meant her to.
Olivia Goldsmith: Yes, I do. Spend the holidays with good friends.
Olivia Goldsmith: With my family of choice. I am invited up to Boston to be with my sisters, their spouses, and nieces and nephews. This year I'm not going. I'm having Thanksgiving in Florida with friends. I will see my mother as well.
Olivia Goldsmith: Well, I certainly would advise staying single for as long as you can possibly manage. This doesn't mean staying celibate, in my opinion. I don't see any advantage for marriage. I don't think there's any financial advantage for women to marry. I think the comment Phyllis made about why women need four marriages is more important than whether or not people actually make the commitment legal. You know, the idea that you make one stupid mistake, one for lust, one for financial security, and one for companionship, seems utterly sensible to me.
Olivia Goldsmith: Bergdorf's it is. How did you guess? Write about what you know! Do you think they'll give me a discount if I send them a copy of the book?
Olivia Goldsmith: I have two sisters and we are close, but we are not called the Sibs. However, we did call my parents "the 'rents." Unfortunately, my father has died, and it doesn't really work in the singular.
Olivia Goldsmith: Well, some genius at HarperCollins came up with the idea of a contest based on this headline: "Every year, 179,000 moms move down to Florida. What if Florida sent your Mom back?" They are sponsoring a contest. Write a personal to get your mom or some other family member or friend out of your hair. And you and she win a makeover and a bunch of other goodies from Cosmopolitan magazine. I get to judge the personals, so it could be fun.
Olivia Goldsmith: Oh, you little minx! How did you know that my next project is THE FIRST WIVES CLUB: THE NEXT GENERATION? I'm not telling anything else, because I need to save my energy for the book. But I already think it's pretty devilish. And if my supply of Mounds bars holds out, I should be done at the end of the summer don't ask what my hips are going to look like!.
Olivia Goldsmith: Because our society is sexist and deeply gender-biased. Of course, this gives me something to write about, so I can't totally complain.
Olivia Goldsmith: I know that some people think my books are vengeful, but I have always said they are about getting justice. And aside from my rotten marriage, which was a long time ago, I would have to say most men in my private life would probably give me very nice written recommendations. But I only hang out with nice guys now.
Olivia Goldsmith: If I inherited my sense of humor, it's from my dad. He was very funny. But frankly, I believe most humor comes from pain. I think I look at very painful truth in my books, and you can either cry or laugh. I prefer to laugh and have others laugh with me. I know that sounds like corny pap, but I mean it. I think there was a serious issue under FIRST WIVES CLUB jokes. And I think that jokes about female aging, female aggression etc. are at the core of my books. I do a lot of funny window dressing so we can laugh about what is painful. Let me end with one thought: Why is it that when a 62-year-old woman gave birth it was a scandal -- people said it was disgusting and unnatural and it made the cover of People magazine -- but when Tony Randall, at 78, impregnates his new young wife for the second time he's offered congratulations? So is Anthony Quinn. Am I the only one who thinks there's something wrong with this picture?
Olivia Goldsmith: Thanks everybody and goodnight!
Posted November 13, 2002
For anyone who enjoys slapstick comedy and doesn't mind laughing out loud while reading, this book is for you. The beauty of the book is that, underneath the farce, lies a story of true family love. Despite all that every character does to annoy the other characters, it all works out for the best in the end-a real win-win situation. Though perhaps deserving of five stars, one star was lost for unnecessary crassness and coarse language.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 29, 2000
Every child with a mother that can love you to death, for every teen that has had their mother do the twist, charlston, or bus-stop at their sweet-sixteen; or any collegian who has had to re-explain their major one time too many can relate. Once again Goldsmith grabs the intellegent reader and tickles you.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 13, 2000
The plight of three adults becomes hilarious when their silly mother moves back from Florida to New York, joined by her ditzy neighbor. The 'kids' decide that the only way to get rid of their annoying mom is to marry her off to a wealthy New Yorker. You'll laugh at the lengths they go to, at the melodrama of the eldest daughter, Sigourney, and be amazed at the outcome. an excellent accompaniment to a day at the beach! (PS: I, an 18 year old university student and my mother, a 40-something college professor, both found enjoyment in this novel)Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 11, 2011
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