Why Girls Are Weird

Why Moms Are Weird
by Pamela Ribon
(Downtown Press, $13, R) ISBN 1-4165-0385-4
Popular blogger Pamela Ribon returns to fiction writing with Why Moms Are Weird. Her sophomore effort is much stronger and cohesive than her debut, Why Girls Are Weird, retaining her trademark cynical humor while reaching greater emotional depths.† †

It took three thousand miles of distance and the loss of approximately 50 pounds, but Benny Bernstein finally feels pretty good about herself.† She makes decent money as a travel agent in Los Angeles, she has friends and a nice apartment, and she just met a cute guy at the grocery store.† Thank goodness for the past four years sheís been mostly out of reach of her widowed Mom, who always knows just what to say to make Benny feel fat and awkward.† These days she just has to cope with bizarre maternal phone calls, such as the recent one in which her Mom casually mentions that she might have Chlamydia and asks Benny for advice.† Turns out itís just poison oak, but itís too late; Benny has to be reminded once again that her own mother has a very active sex life.† And be insulted that her Mom thinks Benny would be familiar enough with an STD to know what to do about it.† †

But when Mrs. Bernstein is in a car accident that totals her only car and subsequently loses her job, Benny takes a leave of absence and flies cross country to Virginia to take care of her.† She is shocked by what she finds at her previously immaculate childhood home.† The house is a pigsty, her mother is juggling three boyfriends, and her wild, self-destructive younger sister Jami has adopted numerous cats and dogs that are running amok.† Benny squares her shoulders and starts fixing things, but realizes to her dismay that her mother and sister donít appreciate her efforts.† She feels like an outsider in her own family.† †

To make matters worse, Benny canít forget the cute grocery store boy, even though she officially broke up with him after a week of bliss because it wasnít fair to ask him to wait for her return to LA.† Meanwhile, the handyman she hires is distractingly charming but unavailable Ė or is he?† Sadly, the only one who apparently is having sex is her own mother Ė judging from the moans Benny hears emanating from her room late at night.† Talk about embarrassing!† But thatís not even the heavy stuff.† When Benny uncovers a clue to her motherís secret past, she starts on an odyssey of discovery that has her questioning everything she knows about her family.† †

Pamela Ribon proved in her first novel about weird females that she knows how to be funny and ironic.† In fact, some of the best scenes in her debut were taken directly from her pamie.com blog.† This time the humor is better integrated into the plot, so itís harder to identify the intersection of novel and blog.† Some of the most biting humor comes from Mrs. Bernsteinís backhanded compliments, such as this interaction when mother and daughter are trying on jeans: †

I take this moment to sneak a quick peek of myself in the jeans in the big mirror at the end of the dressing room hallway.

Mom clunk-clunks over the second Iím out of the safety of the dressing room.† ďI like those,Ē she says.

ďYou think?Ē

ďThey make your hips look less wide.Ē

Itís a compliment, and itís not a compliment, yet itís still technically a compliment. †It takes years of practice to do this.† Donít think you can do it on your first try.

Along with the humor is a familiar but well-told story about a young woman coming to terms with the imperfections of her childhood and learning that itís possible to love someone without having to fix them.† Plus she finally realizes that sheís worthy of love despite her insecurities and idiosyncrasies.† The object of her romantic love is very much a Generation Y Prince Charming.† I canít say that a goateed, tattooed hipster wearing a t-shirt and saggy jeans would appeal much to me, but then Iím a lot closer in age to Bernstein Sr. than Jr.†

† Ribon creates scripts for television, movies, and plays in addition to maintaining her blog, so sheís pretty busy spreading around her talent.† However, if she decides at some point that she has any more ďWeirdĒ people sheíd like to write a novel about, itís sure to be an entertaining experience.† †

--Susan Scribner

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