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Mrs. Fletcher by Tom Perrotta

December 27, 2017


Perrotta (Election, Little Women, The Abstinence Teacher, The Leftovers) loves to write about adults in crisis acting desperately. In this case, the protagonist is 46-year-old single mother Eve Fletcher, and the crisis is brought on by her delivery of her son Brendan to college. As they are preparing to leave the house, Brendan is visited by his girlfriend and Eve overhears them having sex—specifically, she hears her son saying to the girl something right out of a porno. The incident throws her into a tailspin. Here she is, ready to send her son off into the world, and she’s realizing he clearly has a very warped perception of at least one thing.

The story follows Eve and Brendan through that first year apart as they both grapple to define their new identities. Both make mistakes, which Perrotta makes the most of—Eve makes a pass at one of her junior co-workers and Brendan finds himself the subject of an art project that would fit right in with the #metoo movement. As with Perrotta’s other novels, there is a mix of the tender with the obscene, subtly-observed emotion with slapstick comedy.

Mrs. Fletcher is a fun, funny albeit raunchy novel. I wonder if the sex-obsessed story undercuts some of the more insightful nuances, if it makes the novel feel more limited in scope than it actually is. It is clearly an examination of sex in the modern day, particularly how the internet has affected our ability to create meaningful relationships. But it’s also about a mother and son finding new identities in the absence of their codependence. The former theme is more scintillating, but I found the second more interesting.

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