Saturday, December 3, 2011

Review: THE MOTHER DAUGHTER SHOW by Natalie Wexler


4 of 5 stars

The Mother Daughter Show is the story of three women and their daughters--the good one, the unresponsive one and the rebellious one--and their journey to a new and profound understanding for everyone.  The exploration of their hopes and dreams reveals some unexpected and sometimes humorous results, but not before some serious issues are brought to light.

The daughters all attend the private and exclusive school, Barton’s Friends School. It is a tradition for all the mothers of senior girls to put on a musical revue, one that they write, produce and all participate in. We are introduced to Amanda, the stay-at-home mom with her unresponsive daughter, Kate; Susan, the successful businesswoman and her too-good-to-be-true daughter, Allie; and Barb, the Parents Association volunteer and her out-right rebellious daughter, Grace. The author takes you on a wonderful journey full of well fleshed-out characters and real problems all told with some fun and witty dialogue. There are some serious issues that high school girls face and it is these problems that the Ms. Wexler brings some much-needed attention to.

As it turns out, the girls are not the only ones with attitudes. As Barb, the perennial people-pleaser, tries to corral all the mothers to work together on the show, tempers flair, egos are bruised and a number of walk-outs threaten to derail the show before it ever begins.  Following the lives of the three moms and their issues as they deal with the pressure of their careers, their daughters and spouses will strike a chord of understanding for almost every woman who has tried to juggle her own needs and the responsibilities to everyone else in her life. 

Whether married or single, a stay-at-home mom or career woman, the book explores the intricate and sometimes complicated issues and rewards women face with their female friendships. Add into the mix, the relationships these women have (or think they have) with their daughters and their own mothers, the Mother Daughter Show is a must read. Recommended.


Interview with Natalie Wexler (provided by Fuze Publishing LLC)

What inspired you to write the Mother Daughter Show?
I wrote the “Mother Daughter Show” partly to try to maintain a sense of humor about a situation I found myself in—the real Mother Daughter Show, a longstanding tradition at Sidwell Friends School, where my daughter was a senior. It seems like almost every year peculiar things happen between the mothers. I wanted to understand why—what was it about this situation that made people act in ways they usually don’t?

I wanted to explore the stressful senior year, but I also saw the novel as an opportunity to write more broadly about the mother-daughter relationship. I gave each of my three main characters a mother of her own as well as a teenage daughter, to allow for a multi-generational aspect to the book.

What turned out to be your greatest challenge in writing the Mother Daughter Show?
Coming up with a plot that worked. My first several drafts hewed much more closely to the show itself and several readers told me that I needed more dramatic action. I wanted to keep the show as the background that framed the story, though, so the challenge was to come up with another plot that I could somehow shoehorn into the one I had.

Your own children attended an elite private school in D.C. How much of your story was drawn from real life?
In terms of details, not that much. … What I did borrow from real life about that situation is the excitement surrounding the presence of the First Family at the school, at least when they first got there.  In the book, tickets to the annual school play sell at an unprecedented rate because think the President and First Lady might show up.

You’re an accomplished writer—the award winning historical novel, “A More Obedient Wife” and now “The Mother Daughter Show. Can you speak to the differences to your approach to each project?
The two novels are quite different and the creative process was different in many ways as well. To write a historical novel, you have to immerse yourself in the priod you’re writing about. That requires lots of research. So it was a nice change not to have to grapple with that for “The Mother Daughter Show.” Instead of burying myself in the library, I could just use my observations about the world around me.

Author bio:
Natalie Wexler is the author of The Mother Daughter Show, to be published in December 2011, and an award-winning historical novel, A More Obedient Wife. She is a journalist and essayist whose work has appeared in the Washington Post Magazine, the American Scholar, the Gettysburg Review, and other publications, and she is a reviewer for the Washington Independent Review of Books. She has also worked as a temporary secretary, a newspaper reporter, a Supreme Court law clerk, a legal historian, and (briefly) an actual lawyer. She lives in Washington, D.C., with her husband.