“Mrs. Fletcher” by Tom Perrotta.
Poor Mrs. Fletcher. After her husband leaves her for a younger woman and her only son goes off to college, she’s feeling a bit lost and lonely. Mrs. Fletcher runs into time for reevaluating her life and ponders how she will spend her newfound free time now that she is not shuttling her son to practices and meets. Maybe taking an evening course at the local college is a good first step? She enrolls in a Gender Studies course and imagines meeting a class full of interesting people, experiencing new ideas and having new common ground to share with her son.
Alas, this is a Tom Perrotta novel, so things don’t go exactly as planned. Mrs. Fletcher soon gets an anonymous text referring to her as a “MILF” and we go down the rabbit-hole of internet porn, followed by a (maybe) sexually-predatory assault on a colleague. Her son isn’t doing too well at college either, finding that his hard-partying misogynistic jock persona isn’t winning him any friends.
Exaggerated exploits aside, the novel explores some interesting ideas about sexuality, gender and class and many of the characters achieve some hard-won insights into themselves and their behaviors. Perrotta wraps up all of the story arcs with happy or hopeful endings. The novel is interesting enough to keep reading until the end. I enjoyed the lessons Mrs. Fletcher shares from her Gender Studies class. A minor quibble: the male characters are quite flat and uninspired, compared to the vibrant and believable females populating the story. Not Perrotta’s best effort, but still worth a read.