"People I Want to Punch in the Throat: Competitive Crafters, Drop-off Despots, and Other Suburban Scourges" (Ballantine Books), by Jen Mann
It's not easy to endear yourself to readers when you write a book called "People I Want to Punch in the Throat," yet somehow author Jen Mann manages to do just that in her new hilarious memoir.
It's a collection of short essays on Mann's life as a married mom of two, who has a gift for calling out the most ridiculous and annoying aspects of suburban life. Much of her tongue-lashing is aimed at fellow parents, but Mann's relatable stories will appeal to any cynic with a sense of humor.
Mann introduces the book with a list of some prime targets of disdain, including "humblebraggers" and extreme couponers. Her astute observations on generally irritating people make her a lovable hater who's got the moxie to say what we're all thinking.
Her blog, also called "People I Want to Punch in the Throat," became popular when a post, bashing overachieving mommies, went viral in 2011, scoring more than a million views. She's now beloved by thousands for outrageous, gut-busting rants about people and situations that frustrate just about everyone.
The book comes with a warning that its amusing anecdotes are Mann's version of events, implying the facts may not all check out.
The line between non-fiction and fiction is blurry. It's clear she's embellishing some of the over-the-top yarns, but you won't care because the universal truths are so funny and real.
Mann takes familiar experiences — waiting in the carpool line, sports parents in the bleachers and bargaining with yard sale shoppers — and spins them into comedy gold. Reading her stories is like riding a waterslide: fast, direct and unpredictable. Like landing in the icy pool when the joy ride's complete, most stories speed to a punchy ending, leaving you wanting more.
The tone is tough, sarcastic and sometimes angry, but the author also reveals a sensitive, vulnerable side that makes her likable. She divulges family dirt, but maintains some privacy by referring to her spouse only as "the Hubs," and using the charming pseudonyms Adolpha and Gomer for her kids.
The Hubs has Larry David qualities: a bit of a curmudgeon, miserly, socially awkward and wildly inappropriate. But Mann calls herself "happily married" and speaks of him with fondness and loyalty. Despite her complaints about motherhood, she's grateful and content in her role.
Mann needs only a few sharp details to accurately sum up distinct personalities. There are the judgmental, designer-sunglasses-wearing "Dolce moms," the self-interested garage-sale-trolling jerks who hope you won't break a big bill she affectionately calls "$50 people" and the freaky, pill-popping moms known as "Superusers."
She loves to pick on extreme parents, who spoil and overschedule their kids. Stories about catty, cliquey moms — similar to the evil sisterhoods in movies like "Heathers" and "Mean Girls" — zero in on complicated female relationships.
Mann deftly uses humor to underscore how intense and humbling mothering can be, which will strike a chord with parents who feel less than perfect.
"Now the Mommy Wars are all about who can out-mom their neighbor. The judging is not about who spends the most time with her kid ... or who has the most important job; it's been racheted up to who can breast-feed the longest and in the most unusual places," Mann writes.
A talented humorist, Mann doesn't shy away from tough topics, including political correctness and racism. She's like the acerbic, smart chick who sits with the rebels and misfits in the high school cafeteria, making fun of the preppie kids at the popular table. She loves to present herself as the underdog, but despite her throat-punching bravado, her fundamental theme is self-acceptance.
Check out Brooke's blog: carpoolcandy.com and follow her on Twitter @carpoolcandy.