All men have mothers . . .
It's a truth that the newly unhyphenated Maisie Grey has learned the hard way. After getting rid of her mama's-boy husband, she happily settles down with her teenage son, Tommy. But she's still stuck with the hovering presence of her impossible mother-in-law, Tommy's grandmother, who refuses to exit the family stage gracefully.
Trying to keep it together with her own business and a new relationship with a man who still lives in—where else but?—his mother's house, Maisie struggles to learn from the MIL-from-hell. She vows that when Tommy brings someone home, she'll be loving, empathetic, and supportive. But then along comes completely unsuitable September Silva—with her too-short skirts, black nail polish, and stay-out-all-night attitude—who is forcing Maisie to take a flinty, clear-eyed new look at what it means to be a mother.
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About the Author
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.
Read an Excerpt
Of Men and Their Mothers
If you look inside my refrigerator, here's what you'll see: one shriveled lemon, one kiwi-banana yogurt a week past its sell-by date, a bottle of Don Cossack vodka, a five-year-old bag of coffee beans from Brazil. If you pull open the freezer compartment, you'll find two All-White Deluxe Pollock's Potpies so old they qualify for archeological excavation, three ice-encrusted Popsicles, and breast milk in a mayonnaise jar, the Hellmann's label still intact.
No, it's not my breast milk. It's Jack's, or, rather, the property of Jack's client at Somerville Legal Services. Jack is my on-the-way-out boyfriend. The milk belongs to Darlene Lattanzio, whose mother-in-law has custody of Baby Anthony Vincent Lattanzio while the courts and the Department of Social Services decide whether Darlene's an unfit parent. Darlene hates her mother-in-law.
I can empathize. Mine was worse, I told her when she telephoned a few months ago about sending Jack to make a deposit in my breast-milk bank.
"No way," she said.
"You'd better believe it," I said.
"Not so," she said.
"Yes, so," I said.
On and on we went like toddlers in the sandbox until I declared a truce. "We'll agree that we both have horrible mothers-in-law," I mediated.
Actually, mine is an ex-mother-in-law. Mother of the unlamented ex, Rex Pollock, heir to those freezer-burned Pollock's Potpies still in my fridge. I don't get it, all those women friendly with their former spouses, yakking to them on the telephone, meeting for an old-times'-sake dinner. The previous and current husbands and wiveseven vacation together, their babies siblinged up with halves and steps. One big happy blended family, all the lumps and odd ingredients filtered through a sieve and smashed smooth.
Not my situation. To take a page from the tree-falling-in-the-forest book—can you count a mother alone in her kitchen as part of a family if you can't see anyone else there? My son is at his father's for his court-mandated summer visit. He's one hour away, though he might as well be on another continent.
I guess I should introduce myself. Maisie, birth certificate Margaret, Grey, formerly Maisie Grey-Pollock. Though I usually reply, "Cambridge," when people ask me where I live, my official residence is actually Somerville, Massachusetts, on Forest Street. Outside my window, I can see the green signpost that announces Cambridge/Somerville line. Half of my toilet seat and all of my washbasin are in Cambridge; the rest of my apartment is in Somerville. My parking sticker bears the Somerville city seal and I'm registered to vote in the firehouse on Lowell Avenue. When I get up to flush, I sometimes have one foot in each city, a symbol of my divided, sliced-down-the-middle life. This worries me.
I've got a lot to worry about. In due course you'll hear the complete catalog. My immediate focus, however, is the breast milk. It's been there longer than the glaciered Popsicles. At first, Jack swore that Darlene Lattanzio's landlord was supposed to fetch it. He didn't. Next there was talk about a boyfriend showing up with an insulated tote bag. No one rang my bell. This really annoyed me as I waited out the eight A.M. to six P.M. sentence of household imprisonmentcustomarily set by deliverymen. Meanwhile, things went bad between Jack and me, and in the process of deciding whether we were going to survive as a couple, the breast milk got forgotten. I didn't accuse Jack of not giving his pro bono client (his law firm insists on a certain number of hours of public service) the same attention he would have allotted one of his corporate bigwigs. But I certainly thought about it.
Now I wonder how long I can freeze the breast milk. I take out the jar; the milk is the color that the stationer who engraved my wedding invitations called ecru. I wanted to make my own invitations—my own silk screens on handmade 100 percent recycled paper—but Mrs. Pollock, the MIL-in-waiting, wouldn't hear of it. No class, she said, a phrase she repeated almost as often as the words the and it. Once, from the other side of the room, I heard her stage-whisper to her son, "I must say I have doubts about your fiancée's"—ominous pause—"background. Her taste. And intelligence."
She was wrong. My family—the Greys, my father's Episcopalian side—had the background. Or at least what passes for class among certain near-extinct American dinosaurs—good lineage, good bones, good if shabby antiques, good schools, fish forks and dessert spoons. My mother, the daughter of CCNY college professors descended from Talmudic scholars, provided the intelligence. We just had no money. The life of the mind doesn't fill the pocketbook; trust funds depleted by black-sheep heirs don't pass through the generations to cushion earnest but clueless businessmen like my dad.
But my mother-in-law will require a whole separatesection, if not a doctoral dissertation, all her own. For the moment, let's keep to the subject at hand: this jar of milk in my hand.
I shake the jar. It's frozen solid. What did I expect? The slurping liquid of a Magic 8 Ball? I suppose Darlene Lattanzio was in love with the father of her baby, too. But when things go sour and the milk of marital kindness curdles (if you will), look where love gets you. The fallout can flatten hearts and minds like a category-five hurricane. Until nothing is left in its wake except the baby, the prize in the Cracker Jack box of a cracking marriage.
I know it's a cliché, but still . . . can there ever be a greater love than that between a mother and her child? All you have to do is sign up for an introductory art history course and study all those Madonnas. The blissful look on the face of the mother. The adoration passing between her and her child, the way she clutches him to her breast. As if she'll never let go.Of Men and Their Mothers. Copyright ? by Mameve Medwed. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Light, quick, humorous look into the relationships between mothers and sons and between mothers/wives and mother-in-laws. I LOLd some passages and was righteously indignant on behalf of single mother main character Maisie regarding her still nasty ex-MIL. Additionally she is confronted with her teenage son’s current girlfriend, of whom she does not approve. Life is a circle of challenges. Made me think differently about my sons and my frustrations on how best to make peace with their choices.
Love her books. Always lovely, light summer reads.This one no exception.Maisie runs an errand running type service in Mass. Divorced with a teen age son, this book strolls through various cross-threads of men and their mothers. Her own mother in law, her son, her boyfriend, etc.Sweet and enjoyable.
Her former boyfriend Jack of Somerville Legal Services asks Maisie Grey for a few favors that will help his pro bono client Darlene Lattanzio; whose mother-in-law is suing her for custody of her grandson baby Anthony. Having once had the mother-in-law from hell, Mrs. (that is always and forever) Mrs. Pollock, whom she still wars with over the raising of her sixteen years old son Tommy, Maisie agrees. She hires Darlene at her Boston-based organizing firm, Factotum and even hides the young mother's breast milk in her freezer. Maisie is also unhappy with Tommy's choice of a girlfriend, September Silva, who was kicked out of her home and now lives with them. At a hospital she runs into former momma's boy Gabe who finally escaped his mom's domination when she died. Maisie and Gabe start dating though she fears he is only looking for a substitute mom and she has two teens living with her. In fact she reads the riot act to Stephanie starting with attending school. September is ecstatic in having a "mom" giving her direction and agrees. This is an amusing look at the triangle relationships between mothers, their sons and their daughters-in-law. The story line is filled with humor starting with frozen breast milk next to frozen pot pies, but also fails to dig deep into why the ties between mom and son sometimes overwhelms the son's bond with his wife; thus a fun tale could have been a profound contemporary relationship drama, but is not. Although supermom Maisie saves the day for seemingly everyone (except for granny Lattanzio) too easily, fans who enjoy a lighthearted funny romp will want to read OF MEN AND THEIR MOTHERS. Harriet Klausner