The Mom Squad by Christine Weiser
Last month I received the most spectacular offer – the opportunity to read Christine Weiser’s latest novel while it was being shopped for a publisher. Christine asked me to read it and write a review or a blurb in the meantime. I could not have been more honored and pleased. As many of you know, Christine is the author of Broad Street, a novel of a female rock band in Philadelphia. The Mom Squad, her new novel, is also set in Philadelphia. It tells the story of Maya D’Angelo, a newly married mother of a toddler named Charlotte and step-mother to a 15 year old named Gracie. Her husband, Nick, is the lead singer of The Plague. They met when Maya was a back up singer for the popular punk band. She was just starting out in a band of her own when she found out that she was pregnant. Maya lived and breathed the music scene and had the tattoos to prove it. Motherhood wasn’t what she had in mind at the time. She planned to make it big in music. She’s not the type of woman that you would expect to leave it all behind to be a stay-at-home mother. Maya often can’t believe it herself, but that is exactly what she did. She set up housekeeping with her husband, daughter, and the step-daughter who blamed her for breaking up her father’s first marriage.
Motherhood made for strange friendships for Maya. Since Charlotte arrived, she found herself hanging out more and more with Susan and Rachel,, two stay-at-home mothers from the same mothers’ group. They could not be more different. Susan’s husband Bob was heavily involved in politics. He is a close advisor to Warren Evans, the African-American Democratic candidate for mayor. They were a well-to-do family and Susan was fastidious about keeping up a clean house and an even cleaner reputation. Together, they have a son named Austen. Rachel’s husband Sam is a busy lawyer also hoping to get into politics. They are also an upper class family, but they rely on Rachel’s trust fund to help Sam make his way into politics. Rachel is heavily pregnant with their second child. Jacob is a frequent playmate of Charlotte and Austen. As much as Maya sticks out among the three of them, they share one very important thing in common – their husbands are often gone and the reality of raising a young child is more difficult than they imagined.
That all changed the day that Warren Evans went missing. The day in, day out doldrums of raising toddlers was quickly replaced with a mystery involving both Bob and Sam. When Maya responded to a cryptic email sent to the mothers’ group email list, she too became entrenched in the mystery. Without forgetting their primary responsibilities to their families, the three women become deeply entrenched in the world of underground Philadelphia detective work – all while pushing their strollers and keeping their babies on their nap schedules. This is where the novel really became interesting for me. It’s easy to make comparisons between Maya and Stephanie Plum, but Stephanie (I still love you), doesn’t have the responsibilities that Maya has. She got what she wished for when she asked for something more exciting to happen than an unexpected dirty diaper stop. How do you balance investigating Philadelphia unions and taking care of your family? You just do what you can. For Maya, Susan, and Rachel, that had to be enough.
Maya was concerned that motherhood made her lose her moxie. She hadn’t sung for an audience since before Charlotte was born. She left the house without wearing makeup or paying attention to her look – something she never would have let happen before the baby. She found that she didn’t recognize half of the bands that Gracie displayed on her walls. Now, Nick was off on tour basking in the limelight while she was left home chasing after all of Charlotte’s little needs. Even dealing with Gracie was a burden because she and the 15-year-old didn’t see eye to eye. Instead of giving into melancholy, Maya constantly tried to keep in mind how much she loved her little girl and how happy Nick made her. Her character felt authentic as a result. Is there a mother out there who doesn’t have the pang of “what about me?” from time to time? Not a one of us would trade our children for the world. Still, there is a reality to family life that isn’t apparent until you’re smack dab in the middle of it. Weiser nailed that often unsettling ambivalence, making her characters not cookie-cut creatures out of chick lit, but well rounded and flawed women who just happen to find themselves in the middle of the largest modern political scandal to hit Philadelphia history. I could relate to Maya and, more importantly, I really wanted to be her friend. She spices up life while keeping close what is most important to all of us – family.
You can read The Mom Squad as a stand alone novel, but the good news is that Christine Weiser is expecting to continue with Maya’s story. I couldn’t be more thrilled. Christine Weiser is emerging as a go-to author for me when I need a life, marriage, and family pick me up. What makes this so valuable to me is that she does this seemingly unintentionally. Unlike novels written intentionally to be family friendly, this message was just what I took away from the book. It wasn’t a foregone conclusion, making it unexpectedly delightful. These were normal, secular women under extraordinary circumstances who made decisions with their heart. Lovely.
The Mom Squad features three interesting and unique women who just happen to be stay-at-home mothers. Reading their story is a wonderful escape from the hassles and responsibilities of daily life, whether you raise your children full-time or wrangle the time clock before picking them up from the babysitters. You will warm up to them as they share their loneliness and frustrations with you and you will be thrilled to join them on their fast-paced stroller races through Philadelphia. If you’re like me, you’ll be laughing at the images of a pregnant Rachel trying to investigate what happened to Warren Evans discretely with her huge baby bump. If you currently have a huge baby bump, all the better. There isn’t a mother out there who wouldn’t enjoy this adventure. You’ll invest in Maya, Susan, and Rachel and all of their relationships within a story that honors the power of women and the importance of family.
This book is not yet scheduled for printing. I will keep you up to date on its publishing process and progress. I don’t think you’re going to want to miss it. I’m looking forward to buying it for my friends (Trista, if you’re reading this, pretend you didn’t).