FICTION: "Motherland," by Amy Sohn

  • Article by: TOM ZELMAN , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 13, 2012 - 7:10 PM

Sohn's latest is an affectionate satire of parenting.

Amy Sohn.

Photo: Photo by Charles Miller,

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This novel is a delight, a witty and sexy send-up of parenthood among the urban well-to-dos. "Motherland" refers to the familiar terrain "of child rearing and nurturing and nonstop care." It's the backdrop against which Amy Sohn's cast of self-absorbed 30-something parents fantasize about media celebrities and obsess about self-image as they (or their nannies) wheel their strollers through their fashionable Brooklyn neighborhood of Park Slope.

Sohn deeply enjoys her characters and carefully develops them. She focuses on five, who suggest the different flavors of angst. It's tempting to situate Sohn's alter ego in Rebecca, a generally sensible retro clothing store owner with a responsible husband and two children. Yet Sohn plunks all of her characters into painfully comic situations, and Rebecca is no exception. Rebecca's younger son has bright red hair, as did her lover, an Australian movie star, whom she met at her food coop. Her efforts to disguise the boy's parentage from her husband form one of the novel's threads.

Another involves Melora (former film star trying Broadway, one adopted child), whose testy attitude has alienated everyone in the show. More pathetic are the men that Sohn features: Gottlieb (film school owner, two children), who abandons any sense of real life, and Marco (gay English teacher, two children), who tries to balance his parental chores and his addictions. These Brooklynites, so uncomfortable in their own skins, could easily become players in a tragedy, but Sohn's inventive plotting and sense of fun work to rescue the characters from themselves. If she does not afford them much dignity, she treats them with kindness and grace, offering them better than they have any right to expect.

  • related content

  • MOTHERLAND by Amy Sohn

  • MOTHERLAND

    By: Amy Sohn.

    Publisher: Simon & Schuster, 341 pages, $25.

    Review: A delightful, witty novel about self-absorbed, angst-ridden 30-somethings in New York.

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