Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

The Valley of Ennui a Bored Mom and a Bored Son's Search for Love and Meaning

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

The Valley of Ennui a Bored Mom and a Bored Son's Search for Love and Meaning

Article excerpt

Eve Fletcher, the protagonist of best-selling author Tom Perrotta's most recent novel, "Mrs. Fletcher," is a staple of modern women's fiction: a 40-something divorcee in search of herself.

Her existential angst is compounded by the empty-nest syndrome. Brendan, her only child, is leaving home to begin his freshman year of college.

Eve's despair is palpable. She is not ready to face the world without the buffer of husband and child. Her old friends are boring, her job no longer fulfilling. She is in search of a new life and a new self.

Initially, Eve is a convincing, sympathetic heroine. She shows insight into the demise of her marriage and non-clich self-awareness that, in the marital tango, her own missteps have contributed to its downfall.

Eve acknowledges that the passivity and neglect she exhibited while allowing the marriage to falter may have had similar, harmful effects upon her son, allowing him to degenerate into a boorish, shallow but wounded party-boy.

One way Eve tries to restart her life is by enrolling in a gender awareness class that is taught by a transgender professor. Although she and several of her classmates have chosen the course at random, more interested in enhancing their social lives than exploring the topic, the author uses this class as a springboard for raising thought-provoking subjects such as whether gender is innate or learned, and for reflection upon society's ever-changing gender norms.

Women living in the 21st century "had all these different models of behavior jammed into their heads," Eve reflects. "You could be a fifties housewife and a liberated professional woman, a committed feminist and a blushing bride, a fierce athlete and a submissive, needy girlfriend."

Although there are far too many points of view on display for such a small cast of characters, Eve, her son, and their newfound friends frequently convey solid insights into realistic individual and societal problems experienced by people whose lives are in flux. …

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