May Contain Nuts: A Novel of Extreme Parenting

Overview

"Alice never imagined she would end up like this, so anxious after hearing about the dangers of meteorites that she makes her children wear bike helmets in the wading pool. Her husband, David, has taught his four-year-old to list every animal represented in Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf. But the more they push their children, the more things there are to worry about. Are their children falling behind with their schoolwork, their music lessons, or the number of sleepover invitations they received this month?" As Alice's eldest child looks set to
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May Contain Nuts: A Novel of Extreme Parenting

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Overview

"Alice never imagined she would end up like this, so anxious after hearing about the dangers of meteorites that she makes her children wear bike helmets in the wading pool. Her husband, David, has taught his four-year-old to list every animal represented in Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf. But the more they push their children, the more things there are to worry about. Are their children falling behind with their schoolwork, their music lessons, or the number of sleepover invitations they received this month?" As Alice's eldest child looks set to fail her entrance exam for the exclusive private school on which her parents have pinned all their hopes, Alice decides to take matters into her own hands. With a baseball cap pulled low over her face, Alice shuffles into a hall of two hundred kids and takes the test in place of her daughter, her first examination in twenty years. It's only once she puts herself in the place of one of her children that she starts to realize the sort of exhausting pressures her kids have been under, and that you can't measure the worth of a child with a percentile ranking.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
O'Farrell (This Is Your Life) is a big deal in Britain: joke writer for Blair; columns in the Guardian and the Independent; various sitcom-writing successes. In his fourth novel, Alice and David Chaplin live in south London with three young children and two conflicting obsessions: parenting their children to greatness, and shielding them from harm. Related from Alice's first-person perspective, this shrill mix produces a particularly hilarious and harebrained scheme: to protect daughter Molly from rejection by the local elite private school (and to get her in), Alice, conveniently petite and noncurvaceous, will masquerade as Molly and sit for the test. Some riotously funny situations result, with Alice deadpanning and kibitzing the whole way. Perfectly named "friends" Philip and Ffion prove perfect foils again and again, as the parents compare (precisely: Ffion e-mails an elaborate chart) their children's achievements. There are some downsides: neuroses are simply stated as fact and then slapsticked, while larger issues like urban decay and racial profiling are raised but not addressed. What O'Farrell does accomplish is a near-flawless caricature of 21st-century upper-middle-class parenthood. Agent, Georgia Garrett at A.P. Watt (London). (Oct.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
British bourgeois bohemians take competitive parenting to new lows in this social farce by the author of This Is Your Life. Alice is a married, middle-aged Bridget Jones-dizzy, maddening, and somewhat endearing. Completely mental about her kids, she will stop at nothing to protect them-especially from being one-upped by ruthless Ffion's daughter, who is nothing short of perfect. When Alice's eldest seems certain to flub her crucial private-school entrance exams, Alice concocts a plan to impersonate her daughter and take the tests in her place. A big hitch: Alice does not have a head for math. A scene with Alice and her husband shopping for a disguise at Gap Kids is side-splittingly funny, as are some cocktail parties where the parents desperately try to impress their friends with their children's achievements. More tedious are Alice's attempts at easing her guilty conscience while continuing to ensure her daughter's successful future. Still, fun stuff, from the British equivalent of Dave Barry; for larger popular fiction collections.-Christine Perkins, Burlington P.L., WA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
It's never wrong to do too much for your kids, right? The over-anxious parent has been documented quite widely in nonfiction over the past decade, but British comic author O'Farrell (This Is Your Life, 2004, etc.) takes on this unseemly phenomenon from a fiction angle. While he doesn't turn these demanding drill sergeants into the monsters often depicted in tut-tutting magazine articles, neither does he try hard to humanize them. Narrator Alice is, to put it mildly, an overprotective mom. Concerned about the cars that come roaring down her fashionable London street at all hours, she decides to teach the drivers a lesson by crafting a crude mockup of a child, putting it on a stick, and then shoving it in front of an oncoming vehicle. Several smashed vehicles, a visit from the local constabulary, and one chagrined husband later, Alice is far from learning her lesson. See, it's time to get wee Molly into Chelsea College, the best school around, only Molly doesn't like to do homework. So Alice does what any self-respecting parent would do: She dresses up as a spotty-faced kid and takes the entrance exam herself. Moral qualms are temporarily swept away by Alice's drive to have the very best for her surely exceptional child. (She couldn't possibly be average: Alice and her fellow mothers shudder at the very suggestion of non-exceptionalism.) Unfortunately for Alice, her slumbering conscience comes roaring to life when she meets Ruby, the very nice African girl from the housing estate who would have gotten a scholarship to Chelsea had Alice not aced the test for Molly. O'Farrell has trouble keeping his plot going at times, and some sections drag, but his unerring eye for the classism, racism andmonstrous egoism propelling these middle-class mini-dictators more than makes up for it. When this satire bites, it hurts.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780802170156
  • Publisher: Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
  • Publication date: 9/9/2005
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 5.58 (w) x 8.22 (h) x 0.83 (d)

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 19, 2006

    A reviewer

    With a great sense of wit, humour, and neurosis, O'Farrell aptly portrays the nervous wreck of an over-protective mother.

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