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Laurie Gelman's clever debut about a year in the life of a kindergarten class mom - a brilliant send-up of the petty and surprisingly cutthroat terrain of parent politics.
Jen Dixon is not your typical Kansas City kindergarten class mom - or mom in general. Jen already has two college-age daughters by two different (probably) musicians, and it's her second time around the class mom block with five-year-old Max - this time with a husband and father by her side. Though her best friend and PTA president sees her as the "wisest" candidate for the job (or oldest), not all of the other parents agree.
From recording parents' response times to her emails about helping in the classroom to requesting contributions of "special" brownies for curriculum night, not all of Jen's methods win approval from the other moms. Throw in an old flame from Jen's past, a hypersensitive "allergy mom", a surprisingly sexy kindergarten teacher, and an impossible-to-please Real Housewife wannabe causing problems at every turn, and the job really becomes much more than she signed up for.
Relatable, irreverent, and hilarious in the spirit of Maria Semple, this is a fresh, welcome voice in fiction - the kind of audiobook that real moms clamor for and a vicarious listen for all mothers, who will be laughing as they are liberated by Gelman's acerbic truths.
The Audiobookworm's Review
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Class Mom was a hoot and a half. I listened to it in its entirety in a full day. It's humor and lightheartedness managed to make my day zip by, faster and brighter.
The entertainment started almost immediately. Within the first two or three minutes, I knew I was hearing a winner. And if, by some random chance, Laurie Gelman is reading this, I'd like to start by saying “Please, please write a sequel”. I need more of Jen Dixon's snark in my life. I'm actually a little mad with myself for finishing this audiobook so quickly. I wish I would have made it last longer but I know that would have been impossible. There's no way I would have been able to stop listening, even if I had wanted to.
The story centers around Jen Dixon, whom acts as class mom for her son Max’s kindergarten class. I loved Jen as a character. Her irreverent humor and snarky wit were so refreshing and completely in line with my own sense of humor, even if we are different in every other respect. However, I should note that there were a couple of lines that came across as rather insensitive. One was called out as such and served a purpose within the plot, but the other did not. I've come to the assumption that they were an attempt to give authentic insight into Jen's personality, but still, I would have rather they not have been included.
With that said, I absolutely loved that Jen wasn't a traditional mom. She had two daughters in college (with two different rock stars from her time as a groupie) and then little Max. Even if the current setting and plot’s events could be described as traditional, her past could definitely not be. I appreciated that her eyebrow raising past wasn't swept under the rug. Instead, it was used to showcase the stark contrast between then and the current setting. Everyone has a past and sometimes the present is dramatically different from it.
Gelman is truly a skilled writer. There were several different, yet related, subplots going on simultaneously and all were handled with incredible aplomb. Each was just as interesting as the next. There was even some light mystery thrown in which had me guessing until the end.
The secondary characters were all developed beautifully. Even with as many as there were, I never had trouble remembering them. They were all incredibly distinct. Even more interesting than the characters themselves was Jen's interaction with them all. I was invested in her relationship with each of them, especially her husband and children.
Class Mom was like listening to juicy gossip. And like gossip, it was filled with drama. Who knew that so much drama could revolve around 5 year olds? Not me. In that manner, Class Mom was enlightening to me. It says something about Gilman's writing ability that she was able to captivate me with the goings-on of a 46-year-old class mom and her kindergartner. I am neither a woman in her forties, a mom, or a kindergartner, yet I was invested in Jen and her family, despite my inability to directly relate to them.
And, here I am, salivating for more. If Laurie Gelman ever takes Max Dixon to first grade, I want to be along for the ride!
Narration review: Laurie Gelman killed it on all fronts. For 96% of this audiobook, I sat here thinking “Who is this narrator? I have to know!”. Lo and behold, it was none other than Laurie Gelman. I was floored upon realizing that the dynamic, enthusiastic, and emotive narrator I had been hearing was also the author. If I hear many more performances of this caliber from authors, my opinion on author narrated fiction may have to change.
I'm no longer wondering how the narrator was able to have such spot on interpretations of the characters, since I now know that she created them. I can't give Gelman enough credit for her performance. She absolutely knocked it out of the park, becoming Jen Dixon. She sold the performance so well that I actually forgot I was hearing someone voice a character and not the character herself. And that, my dear friends, is the stuff of audiobook dreams. ♣︎