Life in Park Slope, Brooklyn is anything but dull in Amy Sohn’s edgy, tantalizing novel Motherland. Following five parents as they struggle with identity and happiness, the reader gets a voyeuristic look into the lives of a group of privileged yet ultimately unfulfilled and unhappy people struggling to find themselves amongst the strollers littering their lives.
Rebecca Rose feels unappreciated and lonely in her marriage to the man who appears to be the perfect father, all while she attempts to hide a secret that threatens to be revealed when her famous ex appears back on the scene. Rebecca’s best friend CC’s husband, Danny Gottlieb, feels trapped in his married-with-two-kids lifestyle and disappointed in his floundering career as a screenwriter. When the chance to make it big in L.A. presents itself, Gottlieb is ready to risk it all, including his family, for the chance to professionally and sexually find himself in the City of Angels. Karen Bryan Shapiro, a recently separated woman in Rebecca’s apartment building, is struggling with self-doubt and loss after her husband leaves her for a surprising partner. Marco Goldstein, another friend of Rebecca’s, is struggling to control his utter abhorrence for his role as stay-at-home-dad while his husband seems to hold all the power. But will he find the satisfaction he seeks in alcohol and anonymous sex as fulfilling as he hopes? And what about Melora Leigh, the Oscar winning actress trying to revive her career on Broadway? Will she find the happiness and success she seeks while fighting back the fear of being left behind in a world that seems ready to forget her?
As these individuals make some startling choices and come together in surprising ways the reader is brought along for the ride in every intimate detail possible, left to see what lengths these characters will go to find themselves again when parenthood, marriage and age seems to have stolen who they are when they weren’t looking.
First off, I must warn anyone preparing to read Motherland that it is incredibly racy and, at times, raunchy. Any reader shy about sex in any and all its forms should prepare themselves before turning the first page. While this didn’t particularly bother me I can see how someone caught unawares might be turned off by it. I also don’t think the typical reader will be able to relate to this over privileged lifestyle that kept reminding me of a smarter version of Desperate Housewives. How can a typical person relate to someone panicked that her child support has dropped from $5,000 a month to $4,000, with that amount not even including her mortgage? Or the constant name dropping of celebrities and New York elite that had me constantly googling names every few pages? Not this reader!
With that being said, Motherland does have quite a few snarky, funny bits that kept it enjoyable as well as an underlying theme of loss of self and loneliness that most parents and married people can relate to. Most of us have felt like a bad parent or spouse at some point and can sympathize with those feelings of regret and guilt even if we can’t relate to the fancy living or hugely selfish ways of coping some of the characters engage in.
Motherland is fun escapist reading for those not bashful about the more risqué aspects of life and those looking for a peak into the entitled world most of us only read about in magazines. Just don’t expect all the characters to have learned from their mistakes by the end.
Colleen lives in Tampa, Florida with her husband, son, their dog Oliver and their fish Finn. When not working or taking care of her family she has her nose stuck in a book (and, let’s face it, often when she is working or taking care of her family as well). Nothing excites her more than discovering a new author to obsess over or a hidden jewel of a book to worship.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Simon & Schuster. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.