Tom Perrotta

     “Disappointment plagues the characters in [Tom] Perrotta’s novels,” writes Laura Miller in the New Yorker, “from the disaffected parents in Little Children to the divorced sex-education instructor in The Abstinence Teacher. Their marriages lack passion, their spouses cheat, their kids demand too much from them. They thought that by now they’d have more money or more interesting jobs or better friends. …

“Perrotta’s twenty-first-century suburbs are dimmer; they have drifted to the periphery of our collective fantasy life. These towns aren’t where anybody is headed, only where they end up, by mistake or misfortune or simple passivity.”

Such is the case for title character of his ninth book of fiction, Mrs. Fletcher, who has returned from New York to live in her late mother’s old house. There, Eve Fletcher, a 46-year-old divorcee, tries to figure out what comes next after her beloved son, Brandan, has gone off to college. The novels themes are suggested early on, Charles Finch writes in the Chicago Tribune: “On the day [Brendan] goes, she overhears him speaking to his girlfriend with a brutality very clearly plagiarized from whatever pornography he's been watching.

“She's both disgusted and shaken. In an elegant Perrottan twist, though, after Brendan has left she becomes semi-addicted to porn herself, finding consolation in it at a moment when she's already fearful that her sexual experiences are at an end, and her solitude is about to become permanent. Meanwhile, at college Brendan is doomed by his white bro ignorance to the very isolation his mother dreads. She, partly emboldened by her new self-reliance, experiences a florescence, finding new friends, new lovers.”

And yet – there always is one in good books - as the New England autumn turns cold, both mother and son find themselves enmeshed in morally fraught situations that come to a head on one fateful November night.

“Scour the Internet all you want, but you’re not likely to find a more pleasant story about pornography than Tom Perrotta’s Mrs. Fletcher," Ron Charles wrote in the Washington Post. But he writes that the “the novel hovers awkwardly between farce and psychological realism. Its neat checklist of sexual experiences — Lesbians! MILFs! Three-ways! — starts to feel like a weird session of Wednesday night bingo.”

Michael Schaub’s review for NPR was far more enthusiastic. “Mrs. Fletcher  is about much more than Internet porn, but it plays a huge role in the book — and Perrotta handles it beautifully, and with a refreshing frankness. (This is a gleefully explicit novel — if you're offended by profanity, you might want to avoid it; if you're offended by graphic descriptions of sex, you will probably spontaneously combust after the first few chapters.) It's not preachy, but it is realistic… Mrs. Fletcher isn't the first book by Perrotta to mix dark humor with serious issues; he's done so before in novels like Election and Little Children. But his latest might just be his best — it's a stunning and audacious book, and Perrotta never lets his characters take the easy way out. Uncompromisingly obscene but somehow still kind-hearted, Mrs. Fletcher is one for the ages.”

Tom Perrotta’s Top Ten List

1. Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes (1605, 1615).
2. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy (1877).
3. Père Goriot by Honoré de Balzac (1834).
4. Howards End by E. M. Forster (1921).
5. The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford (1915).
6. My Ántonia by Willa Cather (1918).
7. Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser (1900).
8. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1925).
9. Rabbit AngstromRabbit, Run (1960), Rabbit Redux (1971), Rabbit Is Rich (1981), Rabbit at Rest (1990) — by John Updike.
10. The stories of Raymond Carver (1938–88).

New List

Francine Prose

1. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy (1877).
2. The Charterhouse of Parma by Stendhal (1839). (See below.)
3. In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust (1913–27).
4. The stories of Anton Chekhov (1860–1904).
5. The stories of John Cheever (1912–82).
6. The stories of Mavis Gallant (1922– ).
7. Moby-Dick by Herman Melville (1851).
8. Middlemarch by George Eliot (1871–72).
9. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez (1967).

 

Classic List

Amy Bloom

 

1. The Deptford trilogy by Robertson Davies (1983).
2.Persuasion by Jane Austen (1817).
3. His Dark Materialsby Philip Pullman (1995–2000).
4.The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields (1995).
5.The Known World by Edward P. Jones (2003).
6. The Beggar Maid by Alice Munro (1978).
7. The Plot Against Americaby Philip Roth.
8. The Hours by Michael Cunningham (1998).
9. Fancies and Goodnights by John Collier (1951).
10. Larry’s Party by Carol Shields (1997).

 

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