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August 22, 2006

Book Preview: SuperMom flies into New Albany

Melanie Lynne Hauser: is the author of “Confessions of SuperMom,” where a mother learns to kick butt, but with a nurturing slant.If you survived a Horrible Swiffer Accident and found yourself endowed with mysterious powers, what would you do? For the divorced mother of two teens in Melanie Lynne Hauser’s “Confessions of SuperMom” (just out in paperback from Penguin/New American Library), the answer is simple: The mother learns to kick butt, but with a nurturing slant. For example, she’s able to make perpetrators go stand in corners in a Super Time Out. By using these powers for the sake of good, not evil, she’s in line to be welcomed into the Justice League of America and partake in their fabulous Caribbean time-share resort.The author’s going to be welcomed to Destinations Booksellers in New Albany on Saturday at 2 p.m. for a reading and signing. Does this book sound fast and light? That it is, but prepare for significant surprises. Hauser introduces a heroine who’s unprepared to be a fortysomething facing up to a demanding yet clueless ex-husband and an overambitious (and possibly nefarious) head of the PTA. When superpowers arrive, it just seems like one more road this woman can’t take because she’s become a bit self-pitying about needing to sacrifice for the sake of motherhood. But circumstances demand that the superskills be brought to bear for the good of all the community, so the character has a lot of midlife maturing to do, and fast. Hauser’s prose skillfully swings like an emotional roller coaster. The pain that these characters face is very genuine and awkward. It’s quite the balancing act the author pulls off, but she makes some unusual demands of readers. For instance, they must be open to both high and low humor, take comics-history in-jokes in stride, and be ready to catch fast-flying jabs at Security Moms and some other cultural-cum-political phenomena. The reader can be amused at SuperMom scolding high-school hot-rodders into buckling their seatbelts, but a few pages later the most sympathetic characters are smoldering and struggling in conflict over how middle-aged dating might mess with adolescent children’s stability.  Confessions of Super MomSo who’s this book being marketed to? Over the phone, Hauser shares that she considers herself a writer aligned with contemporary Women’s Fiction. (For example, she talks with admiration for Anne Tyler and Elizabeth Berg.) But the fantasy aspects of this book are more than just “a hook with which to market.” Hauser indulges in her metaphor to the point where this light novel might not be recognizable as part of the burgeoning “hen-lit” scene. But there’s a difference between a purposeful indulgence and a wallow, and the comical rewards here go beyond the norm because Hauser wants readers to relate a little to the entrepreneur within villain Lex Osborne. She also wants us to wince in recognition of a local PTA that finds need for a color-coded alert system. Note that Hauser also wanted us to know that SuperMom carries condoms in her Utility Apron. Penguin Books wouldn’t allow that detail to see print, which is odd in the face of the political and cultural humor throughout this book. But Hauser’s on a roll and SuperMom’s not done. A sequel arrives next spring, as SuperMom negotiates the absurdities of community fundraising campaigns and the Patriot Act, and her (now a little less mild-mannered) alter-ego must walk the tender and treacherous path toward making a blended family.