The Mommy Fund
The Mommy Fund is not my first foray into Mommy Lit. I recently very much enjoyed Jennifer Weiner’s Little Earthquakes and thought I’d be up for another tale of modern mommy woe – being a new mommy myself, this new sub-genre is suddenly relevant. Unfortunately, Madeleine K. Jacob’s story wasn’t nearly as its cute as its cover would suggest.
Kate Thompson and Dani Strauss are best friends living in the New England small town of Easton. They both have kids and hectic lives, although they are a bit different. Kate has a solid marriage and stays home with her boys, volunteering at READ, a local literacy program, to keep her more intellectual side fresh. Dani is a divorced lawyer who works long hours and quite often has to sneak in mommying her daughter when her boss isn’t looking. What Kate and Dani both share is a sense of drudgery and personal unappreciation. When READ’s financial benefactor, Gerry Honeywell, steals the credit for Kate’s award-winning program, Kate feels especially overlooked. However, that is all about to change with one startlingly big check.
Gerry Honeywell gives a yearly bonus to READ’s director, but Kate is astonished to learn she’s to receive $1,000,000 in cold, hard cash. She waffles about accepting it, but Dani persuades her – someone is finally paying attention and noticing what a difference Kate makes in other’s lives. She darn well better accept it! This is fate calling! Kate acquiesces and sets up an account with both of their names on it, and the two of them hightail it to New York City for a much-needed long weekend away from kids and ex’s and horrible bosses. They’re going to paint the town red. Crimson in fact.
The best part of this story is the very beginning when Jacob depicts motherhood and the daily grind in all of its non-glory. Here Kate and Dani seem authentic. Their stresses are normal, their wishes commonplace. It’s easy to identify with them in their natural setting. However, once they hit the road, their story becomes fantastical and as they lose themselves in a huge spending spree, their likability fades.
While it’s possible to have a great adventure in the Big City, most of us aren’t Ferris Buehler. In the course of three days, Kate and Dani wind up as accidental extras on a movie set, get pulled up on stage with a jazz singer to wild audience applause, and hook up with Kate’s idol, Dr. Mia, a famous, New Age-y, self-help guru. Suddenly they are hot, and everyone wants a piece of them. Success haunts them in every new venture they try. While I can enjoy wish fulfillment as much as the next reader, this overabundance of unexpected triumph stretched believability just a tad.
In addition, Kate and Dani’s spending spree bordered on personally painful for me to read about. It seemed terribly unlikely that anyone would chuck so much money to the wind without at least consulting a tax attorney – or the benefactor. Also, “conspicuous consumption” hardly seems the phrase for their kind of outlay of cash. They rent a vintage car to drive to New York, stay at a suite at the Plaza, get total beauty and wardrobe makeovers from the most expensive stores, spas, and stylists, and eat every meal in expensive restaurants. And they buy gifts – jewelry, scarves, toys, everything. No doubt the sort of fantasy fulfillment offered here (to spend all the money you can in whichever way you want) offers some appeal, but all I could think about was how childish and irresponsible this behavior was in two grown women. And, to add insult to injury, Kate does it all without even consulting her spouse or letting him know about the money. While occasional self-indulgence is fine, self-indulgence in the most expensive fashion possible seems foolish and nearsighted. Also, shopping seems out their more petty, vengeful urges as is illustrated in a short scene that is an homage to one in Pretty Woman.
The book is also filled with self-help chatter and “You go, girl” affirmations that are supposed to sound profound, but are really only stating the obvious. Important Problems are solved during this getaway, and both Kate and Dani return to Easton better people, ready to face life again. Mmm-kay.
The Mommy Fund might appeal to people who revere designer fashion and big city high life more than I do, but to enjoy this story, you’d have to more than just suspend disbelief. You’d have to shove it out the window and dangle it down about ten stories.