Sunday, October 12, 2008
79. "When We Were Bad" - Charlotte Mendelson
Perhaps the title should be: When We Were Naughty, Naughty Adults. Though "naughty" adds more spice where there is only blandness, like marzipan.
Four adult children of the famed rabbi, actress, broadcaster, and author, Claudia Rubin, will do anything to make mama happy. At their house, the term, "When mama ain't happy, nobody's happy," has a disturbing bend. For example, her husband, when finding out that his book will be published a mere two weeks after her book, keeps it a secret because he fears that Claudia has the power to shut down the presses.
Still, all children must rebel, and at the age of 33 (?) and 28, Frances and Leo (respectively) begin to rage against the mama machine. They are "bad" because they are choosing to live their own lives, rather than the one that Claudia has created for them. "With this family, you are for us or against us," she says. Well, okay, at least we know the stakes.
At turns desperately depressing and sardonic (at one point, the father sees one of those gloomy, cat-loving women that make him nervous, then realizes it's his daughter, Frances), the entire novel reaches for more than it can deliver. There are hints at outrageous past lives, mental illness, and incomplete characterization (the two youngest children - in their 20s - are considered artistic, so they are not expected to work, yet live at home, toking up and stealing checks). The experience left me saying, "Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?" (WTF, for those of you who aren't exposed to college students and the latest lingo.)
2.0 out of 5.0 Gin Sours.
For my personal quest (connecting the dots), this was a tough one. I could re-read the Torah, but I do have a copy of a book about one of Moses's wives. "Along with God, it is the figure of Moses (Moshe) who dominates the Torah." Hey, I admitted that I might stretch things, didn't I? I just didn't admit that it may be thinner than the vein of an angel's wing.