MRS. FLETCHER by Tom Perrotta

I like Tom Perrotta. I’ve read a bunch of his books and I like his take on suburbia and middle age. I even read his dystopia novel – as I told him once at BEA, if anyone could drag me into dystopia, it’s him. So I was psyched to read Mrs. Fletcher, his latest novel (out this August). It was top of my target list for BEA and happened to be the very first book I came across when I crossed the threshold of the show in May.

So I read Mrs. Fletcher this week on vacation, and it was… fine. Not great. It’s about Eve Fletcher, a 46-year old single divorced mom in an unnamed suburb whose life is empty when her son Brendan leaves for college. She discovers online porn, kisses a female coworker and takes a gender studies class from a transgendered woman. She becomes the subject of a few people’s lascivious texts and IRL advances, and in general wakes up from her single mom sexual stupor.

Brendan, meanwhile, arrives at college and discovers that his frat bro asshole ways aren’t going to cut it anymore. He’s selfish, unmotivated and immature and ultimately finds himself single and friendless.

That’s basically what happens. I feel like Tom Perrotta saw the attention that Transparent and Caitlyn Jenner were getting and thought “I should get on that trend”. There is a message in this book: that attraction of all kinds is OK (trans woman-straight man; older woman-younger man; woman-woman; frat boy-girl in wheelchair; the myriad permutations in porn; etc.) but it felt a bit simplistic and dated. Do we really need a novel in 2017 from one of our more insightful authors to tell us this?

Mrs. Fletcher is a fun and easy read but there isn’t much to it beyond that. Given that it came from the author who gave us The Leftovers and Election, I was a little disappointed.