How do you ensure that mom will have a great Mother's Day? Buy her a Kindle or iPad and load it with some great books, movies, and television shows. Then leave her alone all day so she can enjoy her lovely gift.
Or, give her breakfast in bed and all huddle together and enjoy your family time. And then leave her alone so that she can enjoy her lovely gift.
How to decide which books to buy Mom? I have created some categories to help you along.
For the Pop-Culture Obsessed Mom
The Love Song of Jonny Valentine by Teddy Wayne
Reading Jonny Valentine was like having a backstage pass or watching an all-access documentary about a make-believe superstar. Jonny Valentine is an 11-year-old pop star, a la Justin Beiber a few years back. The book follows him on tour with his entourage, which includes an over-the-top mom as manager, a tutor who cares about Jonny's future but is too afraid to speak her mind lest she get fired, and a big bodyguard with an even bigger heart. This book had me laughing out loud a few times, as it is filled with subtle (and not so subtle) jabs at the cost of fame and how much it seems to matter in America. Also, it is rare to find a writer who can create such an original and wholly real character as Jonny Valentine. For me there is Bridget Jones, and Holden Caufield, and a handful of others whose voices come through so loud and clear that I believe they are real people. And Teddy Wayne has done that here with Jonny Valentine. From the first page, I believed in Jonny, even when I didn't like him. Wayne succeeds in having Jonny walk that fine line between youth and adulthood - before he should even have to - which deepens what is already a wonderful and entertaining tale.
For the Hopeless Romantic
Me Before You by JoJo Moyes
This book takes a sort of modern twist on a classic love story. Two people from very different backgrounds find their way to each other under extraordinary circumstances, almost like Beauty and the Beast. From Amazon: "Louisa Clark is an ordinary girl living an exceedingly ordinary life—steady boyfriend, close family—who has never been farther afield than their tiny village. She takes a badly needed job working for ex–Master of the Universe Will Traynor, who is wheelchair bound after an accident. Will has always lived a huge life—big deals, extreme sports, worldwide travel—and now he's pretty sure he cannot live the way he is. Will is acerbic, moody, bossy—but Lou refuses to treat him with kid gloves, and soon his happiness means more to her than she expected. When she learns that Will has shocking plans of his own, she sets out to show him that life is still worth living.
A Love Story for this generation, Me Before You brings to life two people who couldn't have less in common—a heartbreakingly romantic novel that asks, What do you do when making the person you love happy also means breaking your own heart?
Sort of sappy? Perhaps. But I loved it.
For the Mom Lost in Time
Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline introduced me to an American past that I had not known about, the Orphan Train system that ran from 1854 to 1929, relocating abandoned, orphaned, and/or homeless children from crowded cities like Boston and New York to willing foster parents in the Midwest. The luckiest children were adopted by loving families, although many were often seen as cheap labor, used as farmhands and valued for their servitude. This work of historical fiction follows one such child, Irish immigrant Nimah (pronounced 'Neev') as she journeys to Minnesota from New York City in 1929. Interwoven with that story is a contemporary tale of Molly Ayer, a 17-year old foster child in Maine, whose last shot at redemption lies within doing 50 community service hours by cleaning out the attic of a 91-year-old who herself rode the Orphan Train many years before. Locked in boxes in her attic are the secrets to her troubled past. Quote Amazon: "Moving between contemporary Maine and Depression-era Minnesota, Orphan Train is a powerful tale of upheaval and resilience, second chances, and unexpected friendship."
A really interesting, engaging tale, and one that I think mothers and their teen daughters would enjoy together.
For the Mom who Loves Legal Thrillers and Page-Turners
Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight
If you liked Defending Jacob by William Landay, then this is probably a good pick for you. This book has a compelling premise and many plot twists and turns that kept me reading to find out just what really happened to Amelia. Amazon says: "In Reconstructing Amelia, the stunning debut novel from Kimberly McCreight, Kate's in the middle of the biggest meeting of her career when she gets the telephone call from Grace Hall, her daughter's exclusive private school in Park Slope, Brooklyn. Amelia has been suspended, effective immediately, and Kate must come get her daughter—now. But Kate's stress over leaving work quickly turns to panic when she arrives at the school and finds it surrounded by police officers, fire trucks, and an ambulance.
By then it's already too late for Amelia. And for Kate.
An academic overachiever despondent over getting caught cheating has jumped to her death. At least that's the story Grace Hall tells Kate. And clouded as she is by her guilt and grief, it is the one she forces herself to believe. Until she gets an anonymous text: She didn't jump.
Reconstructing Amelia is about secret first loves, old friendships, and an all-girls club steeped in tradition. But, most of all, it's the story of how far a mother will go to vindicate the memory of a daughter whose life she couldn't save."
Exploring issues of bullying, growing up, and mother-daughter relationships in a modern world, this is another good pick for moms and their teenaged daughters to perhaps read together.
For the Funny Girl Who Thinks About Escaping Her Domestic Life
If you haven't already read Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple, what are you waiting for? This charming, comic novel follows quirky, once-famous architect Bernadette Fox, who, as the mother of a pre-teen daughter and wife to a Microsoft executive has sort of lost herself in the Seattle landscape of eco-conscious neighbors and annoyingly uptight private school mothers. Bernadette is anxious and a bit paranoid, which makes her true-to-life observations about the world around her hilarious and spot-on.
A great read, and a solid book group choice.
For The Mom Who Doesn't Like to Read or Says She Has No Time
Yes, there's a book for you, too! An Unexpected Twist by Andy Borowitz is a Kindle Single. It only costs 99 cents and is 18 pages long. I read the whole thing while waiting in a carpool line. Seriously! And then I was like, wow, I just read a whole book! I felt such a sense of accomplishment. I am sort of in love with the author, a political humorist and columnist of The Borowitz Report for The New Yorker. He makes me chuckle. Even in this memoir, in which Andy writes about a life-changing medical situation that almost killed him, Andy Borowitz makes sure we are all laughing along.
Quote Amazon: "An Unexpected Twist is in equal parts harrowing and hilarious – and a moving affirmation of what it means to be alive." I read it, and then my husband read it, and then my mom read it. Not to be missed.
For the Post-Modern Literary Reader
If you loved A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan or The Tenth of December by George Saunders, then Kate Atkinson's new novel, Life After Life, should be on your list, because it's on mine. I have heard great things about it and plan to read it next. Here's what Amazon has to say: "What if you could live again and again, until you got it right? On a cold and snowy night in 1910, Ursula Todd is born to an English banker and his wife. She dies before she can draw her first breath. On that same cold and snowy night, Ursula Todd is born, lets out a lusty wail, and embarks upon a life that will be, to say the least, unusual. For as she grows, she also dies, repeatedly, in a variety of ways, while the young century marches on towards its second cataclysmic world war.
Does Ursula's apparently infinite number of lives give her the power to save the world from its inevitable destiny? And if she can -- will she?
Darkly comic, startlingly poignant, and utterly original -- this is Kate Atkinson at her absolute best."
Have other suggestions? Add them in the comments section below. And happy Mother's Day to all.
Columnist and blogger Julie Gerstenblatt writes with humor and candor about her life in Scarsdale, her friends and family, and the particular demands of motherhood and wifedom in modern-day suburbia. Read about her new book Lauren Takes Leave and keep up with the latest from Julie Gerstenblatt at http://juliegerstenblatt.com.