Wham, bam, no-thank-you, ma'am. That about sums up the sex life of Claire Doolittle. Not-so-happily married to Jack-once the man of her dreams but now a modern-day version of the bossy, dull Ward Cleaver of '50s sitcom fame-Claire is at the end of her rope. Gone are the glorious days of flings in elevators and broom closets. Jack? All he needs is a cardigan and a billowing pipe to become the domineering father figure Claire never wanted. And looking at her body in the mirror, Claire would cast herself as Lumpy. They'd once had a world of color, of wanton frivolity. Now, life's black and white: a sitcom in reruns. A not-very-funny sitcom. Cue an old boyfriend-the "one that got away"-throw in a predatory hottie who's set her sights on our leading man, and watch Claire's world spiral out of control.
In the old TV show, the Beaver always got a happy ending. Stay tuned.
|Product dimensions:||4.25(w) x 6.80(h) x 1.00(d)|
About the Author
Jenny Gardiner is the author of the novel Sleeping with Ward Cleaver. Her writing has appeared in Ladies Home Journal, the Washington Post, and NPR's Day to Day, and she has a column of humorous slice-of-life essays that runs in the Charlottesville, VA Daily Progress. Jenny lives in central Virginia with her husband, three kids, two dogs, one cat, and, of course, a gregarious parrot.
Read an Excerpt
Sleeping with Ward Cleaver
By Jenny Gardiner Dorchester Publishing Copyright © 2008 Jenny Gardiner
All right reserved.
Chapter One In roughly four hours, I'm scheduled to have sex with Ward Cleaver.
Ward Cleaver? you ask?
You know the guy: bland gray cardigan with leather-patched elbows, perma-press slacks, stern countenance. Stick up his ass.
Of course, it's not the Ward Cleaver, of black-and-white sitcom fame. The one married to June, that doyenne of conjugal perfection (by contrast with whom I could well be considered the Antichrist). Father of the Beav and all-around curmudgeon. No, no, no. Heavens, no. He's probably dead, for all I know.
Instead, I can stake my claim as being doomed to yet another Sunday-night roll in the hay with my very own version of Ward Cleaver: my husband, Jack Doolittle, a guy who once wooed me with sweet words and kind actions, but who now is content to deluge me with dothises, don't-do-thats, and do-you-understands? Somewhere along the line he morphed from gentle lover into bossy father, and I didn't even see it happen.
Yep. Years ago I went to bed with the man of my dreams. Now I find myself sleeping with Ward Cleaver.
It's six o'clock on a Sunday night, and I'm staring Ward in the face. The pork roast is fresh from the oven, the potatoes tender and hot, the beans steamed to crisp green perfection, and Ward-I mean my husband Jack-is hard at work hollering at one of the kids for some minor infraction. Great. Another dinner ruined because old Wardy-boy is on the warpath.
"Cameron, I asked you to rake the leaves four days in a row, and again you haven't done it," he nags. "So now I'm grounding you for a week."
Granted, Cameron would sooner march off to war than perform expected chores around this household, but the time to inflict extreme punitive measures isn't after I've spent three hours toiling over this picture-perfect dinner that no one but Jack will even eat. I'm lucky enough to have dragged these kids to the table at the same time; I don't need unwanted contention to flush this happy family meal in a swirling rush down the commode of filial resentment.
"If I told you once I've told you a thousand times, don't play with your food."
He's yelling at Chrissy now, who is stuffing green beans into her nostrils so that she looks like a walrus. I think it's kind of funny and let out a laugh despite myself. Jack glares at me.
"Young lady, if I have to pull those green beans out of your nose-and Lindsay, get your elbows off the table. You're old enough to eat like a lady."
We interrupt this lovely family dinner for a one-man bitchfest, brought to you by Ward Cleaver.... Our pleasant Sunday-night supper, which began with happily chattering children, has now devolved into a behavioral sermon conducted by the high priest of killjoy.
"And, Claire, do you suppose you might someday choose to remember not to disturb me on my cell phone when I'm out golfing?"
Out golfing while I'm home dealing with the kids and those to-do lists they aren't to-doing.
"Jack," I say through gritted teeth. I absolutely detest strife and will do most anything to avoid it. Even sleep with Ward Cleaver. "If you-know-who wants you-know-what, then you-know-who had better back off. Now."
Yes, it's Sunday night. Mandatory-sex night. Fuck. No wonder I hate Sundays so damned much. After a week of serving as mistress to house, husband, children, and career, the last thing I want is to have Jack point that gun at my temple.
I don't know when sex went from being the most glorious thing imaginable to being a loathsome necessity, ranking up there alongside trench warfare or changing bedpans at a nursing home, but somewhere along the line sex went from self-serving to servitude, and nowadays I find my mood worsening the closer I get to Sunday night.
Don't get me wrong. I still love Jack. And it's not that I think Ward's such a bad guy. After all, he's probably the one I'd count on to bring home a steady income, or to set the kids straight if we found a bong or a gun or a creepy snuff film in one of their dresser drawers.
But sex? With Ward Cleaver? Spare me. Or maybe send Ward's young nemesis, Eddie Haskell, my way. Maybe what I really need is a bad boy to save the day.
Ten o'clock. All the kids are tucked into bed, though it's guaranteed that at least three of them will waft unwelcome into the room like the aroma of overripe Brie during the next half hour.
Jack keeps eyeing me salaciously; he's a young boy on Christmas morn coveting the twinkling tree and its pile of colorful gifts sheltered beneath its limbs. If you could consider me a twinkling tree, as weary and out of shape as I've become. I'm more like the tree after the Twelve Days of Christmas have drawn to a close, the relatives have all gone home, the credit card bills have come due, and every last hint of life has evaporated from the poor thing and the naked limbs are surrounded by its exhausted needles littering the ground.
Sometimes I wonder how Jack can even look forward to this weekly venture, as I freely admit that sex with me has become about as much fun as getting it on with a week-old cadaver. Trust me, this body sure isn't hot, and in fact could barely qualify as tepid. I've tried to suggest to Jack that God gave him hands for a reason, but he just doesn't seem to take the hint.
The first child to return to the fold tonight is five-year-old Matthew, whose grimy baseball cap, worn backward, has become a permanent fixture on the boy's head. Jack calls him Bubba because he thinks he looks like a truck driver in the hat.
"Bubba, what are you doing up?" I snap, dismayed he's not asleep. Clearly bedtime is considered optional around here.
He squints his eyes at me, the bright light scorching his dark-adjusted retinas. "My nose."
I take a quick glance at his nose, see no blood, and dismiss him readily. "Sweetie, there's nothing wrong with your nose. Now get back to bed."
Matthew starts to cry. "My nose!" He sticks the stubby tip of his pointer finger up his left nostril.
I glance over at Jack, who lies in bed without a care in the world, not even bothering to lift his eyes off the page he's reading, despite his son's plaintive sobs. Where are his Ward Cleaverish authoritative ways when I need them?
I notice that Bubba's clutching something in his right hand, and I peel open his fingers to uncover his cache. Resting in his sweaty palm is an elegant elbow-length lavender Barbie glove, the kind Barbie might wear to a state dinner. My son is staring at the glove and crying, all the while pointing at his nostril. I've always hated mimes; perhaps it's because I can't figure out what the hell they're trying to tell me. And I'm growing impatient with my little miming son.
I hear a soft knock on the door and look up to see Cameron silhouetted against the hallway light.
"Didja tell Mom yet, dopey?" Cameron enters the room and takes a tug at the sandy brown hair that's protruding from the adjustable strap of Bubba's cap. Bubba's eyes, as damp and dark as a tide pool at dusk, well up with tears of frustration.
"It is not okay to call your brother names," I say in a stern voice rich with unspoken threats. Then I realize Cam knows what's going on with his sibling. "All right. Confess. What's wrong with your brother?"
Cameron laughs above Matthew's wailing. "I'll give you a hint. You need pliers."
I see that Jack has donned a set of headphones, deliberately tuning out from this emerging crisis. His toe is tapping to the beat of whatever song he's escaped into. Probably Guy Lombardo. I could kill him.
"You two had better tell me what is going on before I count to ten," I say, then pull Matthew's hand into mine and drag him into the bathroom. I grab his chin and tip his head backward, using the light from the bathroom vanity to peer up the boy's nose, yet I see nothing.
"My nose, my nose," Bubba insists, tears wetting my hands that are still clutching his face.
I rifle through my Drawer of Excess in the bathroom, the clatter of inhabitants contained therein mocking me, reminding me of the complete disorganization that is a hallmark of my life. Finally I find the flashlight I'm searching for, buried behind the stash of condoms (long past their recommended shelf life), Band-Aid wrappers (which the kids refuse to dispose of properly), Vaseline, rusted safety pins, fingernail scissors, dental floss, wheat pennies, sullied cotton balls, and old tweezers, the ones I just can't throw away even though their tips no longer meet. I lean Bubba's head back again, shining the light up his nose.
"Aha, now I get it," I say, finally in on the secret.
Wedged deep into the recesses of the boy's tiny nostril is a lavender blob reminiscent of its mate, the one awaiting Barbie's White House dinner invitation in my son's tiny palm. Now that I've gotten to the bottom of this, I'm really angry.
"Matthew Joseph Doolittle. What in the hell are you doing with a Barbie glove up your nose?" I have this little problem with angry-mother-gutter-mouth syndrome. One time Cameron's teacher reprimanded him for saying the word darn in class, and he nonchalantly told her that his mother said far worse than that at home. It's a wonder Child Protective Services hasn't knocked on my door.
I turn to Cam. "And Cameron: A) How did you know that your brother stuck this up his nose? And B) Why did I have to discover this on my own while you insisted on playing twenty questions with me?"
His boyishly innocent pale blue eyes tug at my weak-willed heart. "Well, he was supposed to be asleep-"
"Yeah, and so were you."
"I went into his room to find the cat, and I found Bubba crying in the dark," he says.
"I want Dolly Llama," Matthew pipes in, sobbing now about the damned cat. Everyone fights over sleeping rights with that cat, who I'm convinced has mystical powers far beyond those of any normal household pet. How else would she know to run from me the minute she coughs up a hairball or pees on the living room carpet?
"So, let me get this straight," I say, then pause to peer out the bathroom door and again look at Jack, buried obliviously in some no doubt extremely engrossing biography, and want to smack him one. As horny as he might be, he'd rather check himself out of daddy duties and relax for a few minutes than help resolve this bedtime headache, even if his own sexual gratification is in the offing.
"Jack, do you think you could reenter the world of parentdom?" I ask.
"Huh?" He looks over at me, peering above his half-moon reading glasses. My God, he couldn't look more Ward Cleaver if he were sternly lecturing Wally and the Beaver right now. "D' you say something, dear?"
I roll my eyes in frustration and instead snap at the children in a cruel reversal of the old phrase, Love the one you're with: a sort of anger paradox.
Shining the flashlight up Matthew's nostril again, I can tell the glove is shoved deeply enough up there that it isn't going to easily just blow out, so I decide to resort to plan B.
"Grrrrrrr." I reach into the Drawer of Excess and dig for the random tweezers stash. I knew they would come in handy one day. I find an individual alcohol swab, clean the tip of a pair of blunted tweezers, and lean Bubba's head back yet again.
"Oooh, Mom, can I do that?" Cameron loves blood and gore. Once, when one of his sisters got stitches, he stood just inches away from the surgeon's needle, staring in awe as her forehead was sewn shut. The chance for permanent injury enchants him all the more.
"Dammit, Cameron, hold the flashlight, and not another word out of you." I reach precariously up Matthew's nose-I never realized how small those little booger alleys can be-and gingerly guide the tweezers northward.
"Ooooooowwwwww," Bubba yells as I whip the tweezers back out, hoping I didn't pierce his brain or anything. I'm not so up on human anatomy as to know where the nose ends and the brain begins.
"Hold still and let me try again." This time I'm successful, and extract the gummed-up and slightly bloodied glove from the recesses of his nasal cavity.
"Hurrah for Mommy!" Matthew jumps up and down as Cameron leans in to inspect the surgical remains.
"Now, boys," I snarl. "I want those damn butts of yours in bed by the count of three-"
They flee before I can get the threat of punishment out. But all of a sudden I shut up as I realize the sad truth: I am just as much June as Jack is Ward. I am June goddamned Cleaver with a sailor's mouth. I'm no longer sweet young Claire Doolittle, Pan Am flight attendant. I am not Claire Mooney, cheerful and peppy former college cheerleader. I am not Claire anybody. I'm a cookie-cutter nagging, middle-aged mother-slash-sexless housewife, fighting a date with destiny: sex with Ward Cleaver and eventual death and burial as a washed-up has-been of a woman. How depressing.
Excerpted from Sleeping with Ward Cleaver by Jenny Gardiner Copyright © 2008 by Jenny Gardiner. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This debut women's fiction novel by Jenny Gardiner is a hoot and a half! A snappy voice 'present tense', sizzling sex 'past tense' - I'm sure Ward and June would be totally confused. But no doubt about it, Ms. Gardiner does a superb job at sucking the reader into Claire Doolittle's dilemma - five kids, a dull husband, and a life that's going down the tubes 'TV, anyone?'. Guaranteed any woman who's married, over thirty, and has at least one child can relate on some level to this book, whether they're willing to admit it or not. SLEEPING WITH WARD CLEAVER is a wild romp of a read, as Claire Doolittle takes control of her life, love, and libido. Bravo, Ms. Gardiner! I look forward to the 'next episode' 'i.e., your next book'!
This is a great book, would highly recommend!!
Was a good book. It felt like the climax point of the book could have been a little bit more intense. Was a bit long.
Never judge a book by its cover: you might expect this to a light, fluffy romance by its cover. But trust me, turn the pages and you'll keep turning. The first chapter bogs down a bit but then it gets going and you won't be able to put it down. Gardiner says what probably 90% of women out there think but don't dare acknowledge, and if you've ever been in a relationship with a man, you will totally be there with Claire on her journey of self-discovery while she figures out how to fix her stale marriage. It's so freaking funny but it's also going to make you cry along the way.
Review by Jen: I'd been eyeing this book for a while. The title just caught my eye and pulled me in. So when Jenny and I started talking about her guesting on the blog she offered me the chance to review the book. I jumped at the chance... and I'm glad I did. (But totally wishing I wrote this review right after reading and not a month later.) The book starts off a little slow, but just when you don't think Claire's life can get any more tangled... it does and the pace picks up. I'll admit in the beginning of the book I started to have doubts about where it was going. I worried when the old boyfriend entered the scene and more than once wanted to smack Claire for being a little whiny. But those feelings were shoved to the side as I laughed over Claire's antics and cried as she reminisced about the early days of her marriage and the deterioration of the relationship. I enjoyed going on the roller coaster ride of emotions and always find it a good thing that I care what happens to the characters.
This is a book that any wife can identify with. Simply put, it's about surviving the mid-marriage doldrums. The characters are bright and colorful. The writing is smooth, sassy and fun. I laughed outloud several times while reading it. I look forward to more from this talented author!
It's 'Sex in the City,' ten years and four kids later. Full of sass and witty retorts, a little intrigue, good (and bad) sex, and a happy ending! What more could a girl ask for!
I will say the positive first.Claire does have a way with words and she will make you laugh.Here we go with the negative.I want to say this without giving anything away.When(THE TALK)came about,after that l found it unreallalistic how after 15years of a screwed up relationship,how fast a turn about came.So if you like drawn out,but entertaining and a fairy tale ending story,then this one is for you!!
Jenny Gardiner's American Title winner hits you in the gut with a reality check on what happens after the 'happily ever after'. The lines zing with true-to-life comments between a desperate housewife and the man she's married to, who is sooo not the man she fell in love with. I ached watching how far Jack and Claire had come from the young lovers of old and the unhappy people we see at the beginning of the story. How far they've come only makes the ending that much sweeter.
Claire Doolittle is now married to Ward Cleaver. No, not the exact same father of sitcom fame, but her husband Jack could be a dead ringer for him. There was once a fun, witty man, but a Jekyll-and-Hyde transformation has taken place, and it doesn't seem like the transformation can reverse itself. One day, though, Claire receives an email from an old boyfriend, and begins to wonder how her life has ended up the way it has, and what she can do to fix it. This book is hilarious! Gardiner is a wonderful, fresh new author on the scene, and definitely has a bright future as a chicklit novelist. Boasting a blurb from mega-writer Meg Cabot on the cover, it's no surprise that this book is a great piece of fiction. Filled with vivid details 'usually containing an interesting way of describing something', believable and relatable characters, and some good insight into marriages, this is one book that will be flying off the shelves!
For a laugh-out-loud, knock-you-on-the-funny-bone read, Jenny Gardiner's debut is a must-have. Twenty-some years post-Happily-Ever-After, Jenny captures reality in a way anyone whose been there can relate to. And those who haven't yet, can plan NOT to. Poignant characters and a situation that could be all too familiar, Jenny's brought Romance home. I found myself laughing at Claire, yet feeling her pain Jenny's characters are drawn three dimensionally and her voice shines through. Brava!
A wonderfully witty book! And a definite must read if you are married and have children! Jenny Gardiner has delivered a fantastic debut novel! I wouldn't be surprised if this one hits the NYT Bestseller List!
Claire Doolittle wonders what happened to her life. She and her architect spouse Jack are raising five kids, but in the last few years he has become a drill sergeant instead of a loving partner starting with his honey-do list. She looks back fondly at spontaneous sex anywhere, but now allows him access to her once a week as his bossy Ward Cleaver no longer appeals to Lumpy Claire even if she still loves the martinet.------------------ Claire receives an email from her former boyfriend Todd and she fondly remembers having fun with him before he broke her heart. She replies and they begin exchanging emails. Jack needs to go to Miami on a business trip, he plans to take his beautiful office associate Julia with him. Her in-laws offer to watch the five kids so Claire can join Jack in Florida, but he rejects her coming with him. Upset, Claire follows Jack to Miami to see if he is cheating with Julia after seeing them together at an office gala in which her spouse acted like her old Jack, but not for her.----------- This is an engaging look at a middle age marriage as the two lead characters have become cemented in their ways and spontaneity no longer exists to unite them in fun. Interestingly marriage did not burn the lifestyle of either Claire or Jack though some comprise and change led to an overall consensus kids nuked their lifestyles. Claire is fabulous as she wants more than being Mrs. Cleaver mother to five, but her Jack expects her to meet his list of demands, keep the kids in line, and take care of his needs he no longer seems to care about hers. SLEEPING WITH WARD CLEAVER is a deep look at marriage as the relationship goes into the phase of raising children.------------- Harriet Klausner