Monday, October 12, 2009

(Review) Hell is Other Parents by Deborah Kogan

Hell is Other Parents
And Other Tales of Maternal Combustion
By: Deborah Copaken Kogan

Review by: Lauren (sent a copy from Voice!)

Summary is a list of quotes from the back of the book, copied from Amazon-

"For anyone who's ever been a parent, had a parent, or wanted to choke a parent, Deborah Copaken Kogan's book is for you. With obscenely funny and frighteningly dead-on insights, this book is so close to my heart I want to put it in a locket and wear it around my neck. I plan to buy Hell Is Other Parents by the carton and hand it out at the playground."
--Julie Klam, author of Please Excuse My Daughter

"Deborah Copaken Kogan writes with verve, warmth, and passion about the complexities of parenting, her love for her children, and all the comedies and melodramas that the complexities and the love together make us perform."
--Adam Gopnik, author of Paris to the Moon and Through the Children's Gate: A Home in New York

"The next time you see a modern American mom walking down the street and think you know what's going on in her life, Hell Is Other Parents will remind you that you don't know the half of it. Like Larry David, Deborah Kogan isn't obsessed with putting her best foot forward. Rather, she unloads what's truly on her mind. She's not afraid to show her anxieties, her vanities, her deepest desires. The results aren't always pretty, but it's a thrilling, hilarious, nerve-wracking ride--a mother's high-wire balancing act--that I wouldn't have dared miss."
--Stephen J. Dubner, author of Freakonomics

"Brave, funny, and charged with equal measures of regret and joy, Kogan's parenting misadventures spring from the page. Though her battles with smothering or totally deranged moms take place in nanny-ridden Manhattan (a world she and her husband can't afford), her stories will resonate with anyone who ever changed a diaper or comforted a weeping child."
--Tad Friend, author of Lost in Mongolia: Travels in Hollywood and Other Foreign Lands and Cheerful Money: Me, My Family, and the Last Days of Wasp Splendor

"This is the stuff of life. Okay, maybe not the stuff of your life, but luckily for us, though maybe not always for Deborah Copaken Kogan, it is the stuff of her life, and she has made it delightful stuff to read about."
--Patty Marx, who is not a parent so don't blame her; author of Him Her Him Again The End of Him

My Review-

Hell is Other Parents is a relatively fast read and I enjoyed that it was a collection of short stories so I could read them in smaller bursts. Not every single story was a favorite of mine, but that's always the case isn't it? Different stories will relate to different people.

I liked hearing about the other parents in Kogan's life and how they view things. I grew up around a lot of different type of parents so I could definitely understand how some are just a little too crazy or obsessed with their children's life. In particular, there is a story in the novel where Kogan gets a call from her daughter Sasha's school. The vice principal told her that another parent was upset that Sasha only had a few close friends and therefore, she needed to be friend's with everyone. As Kogan tried to explain this was just Sasha and she was happy she had any friends at all, the vice principal refused to listen and kept restating that she needed "to be friends with everyone." Obviously this statement is not possible, so it was definitely an amusing part of the book.

"I read No Exit, Sartre's famous existentialist play, in my early twenties, and I remember thinking at the time that it was interesting on a conceptual level but not on a literal one. Hell might very well be other people, okay, sure, but under what far-fetched conditions would anyone ever actually be trapped forever in the company of strangers with no sleep or means of escape?

Then I became a parent."

-page 27

The above quote is taken from the very beginning of the short story titled "Hell is Other Parents" and definitely made me laugh. You only have to know a mom to understand how true this statement can be in those circumstances.

One of the things that I really enjoyed in this book (and I think a lot of other non-parents and parents alike will too) are the stories that involve her son Jacob's career. I say this not because her other children, Sasha and Leo, aren't interesting but because it's a different look into the acting world for a child. You see, Jacob is an actor who hasn't starred in much (as the family has certain rules on what he can and cannot do) but was the lead role in an indie film, Joshua. I definitely want to check this one out now. It seems a bit creepy, but it also reminds me a lot of the film The Good Son which I was a fan of and hope to somehow find a copy of so I can own it.

Apart from Joshua, as most of you might not know that one, he was also young Spock in the latest Star Trek film. I didn't see this move in theatres, but if you did, you know who I mean. As such, an interesting chapter to read was "The Adolescent Spock" which is about Jacob's time on the set of Star Trek but also how Kogan's daughter, Sasha, is more like Spock in real life. You get a unique look on the making of the film, including the hotness of Chris Pine and how sweet J.J. Abrams was to Jacob and everyone else on the set (he even allowed Jacob and his grandpa see an advanced screening as the latter had only months to live and wouldn't see it in theatres).

Overall, this was a good book. It's great for moms but it should have some fun information and stories for those that aren't (there is even one story about reconnecting with old college friends).


elnice said...

There must be a theme tonight, I keep reading reviews about "family" books. I am a mother, have a mother and as a teacher wanted to strangel some mothers before so this should be right up my alley. Great review.

Elie (Ellz Readz)

cherdon said...

I throughly enjoyed your review and am now interested in reading Hell is Other Parents
And Other Tales of Maternal Combustion book. Thanks so much.

Suko said...

Enjoyable review! The quote from page 27 made me laugh out loud!