Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Mrs. Fletcher: How To Be Woke in 2017

Tom Perrotta's Mrs. Fletcher might be the zeitgeist-iest book I have ever read. The man has already established that he knows how to tell a story, but in this novel, he seems to tap into all of the worries and fears raging through America today, where some people are trying to acknowledge their privilege, others are utterly oblivious, and everyone is wandering around in a bit of a daze until they figure their life out. It's a fascinating book that has many witty observations, somber reflections, and at least one passage destined to speak to you in some profound way if you're a 21st century American.

First off, if you're a man, don't be put off by the cover and blurb about how this is a story about a 46-year-old divorcee and her sexual awakening. Yes, that is part of the story, but for heaven's sake, I've spent my whole life having to read novels and watch movies about men, I think you can handle a well-written novel about a lady for once. Part of the story revolves around Eve, the aforementioned divorcee whose son has just left for college. She must therefore come to grips with her empty nest and figure out how she wants to spend her time. She decides to take a Gender Studies class at her local community college, which is taught by a trans woman and has a diverse student population ranging from open-minded immigrants to crass white males, which makes for an interesting dynamic.

The other part revolves around Eve's son, Brendan, a star athlete and high school stud who suddenly discovers that college is about more than being popular. He thinks he has found his tribe of frat brothers and football players when he arrives at Berkshire State University (a school he mostly picked because of its renowned party scene), but things quickly spiral out of control when he gets involves with the feminist president of the Autism Awareness club at a Black Lives Matter protest and finds himself completely out of his element.

In those above paragraphs, you may have spotted all the buzzwords of the past few years. This is a book about everything plaguing America today and how a mother and son are trying to navigate the complexities of being white people in a sea of social justice causes without committing horrific faux pas. Every supporting character is equally tortured, regardless of skin color or gender identity, because while they might have their own pet cause they're fighting for, they are up against a number of other causes that they're not quite sure they know how to deal with.

Mrs. Fletcher is a complex and wonderful read, extremely funny but also a revelation. Perrotta treats his characters with both scorn and empathy, mocking them for their failings but also giving them chances to better themselves and learn more about the world around them. This is also the perfect novel about our online age where Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram can define a person's existence and both educate them on what's happening in the world while making them feel like they're missing out on everything. It is also a damn good story, a page-turner with twists that will make you laugh out loud and cringe with disbelief. So pick it up and give it a try. You might broaden your horizons. 

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