By Caitlin Macy
Read Dec 2018
Mrs. has some parallels with Tom Wolfe’s Bonfire of the Vanities: set in high-end New York City, providing a glimpse of “how the other half lives”, and a crime committed that brings down one of the characters. What’s different: this book is told through the eyes of most members of each of three couples (vs the primary protagonist in Wolfe’s book), supplemented by a “chorus” of unidentified mothers; the binding tie between the characters is St Timothy’s Preschool which all the characters’ children attend; the criminal’s voice isn’t one we hear nor is he apparently concerned about his crime.
Macy is most sympathetic towards Gwen Hogan and her husband Dan. Gwen is a chemical engineer turned stay-at-home mother; Dan works for the measly salary of $150,000 as a lawyer for the US Attorney’s office in Manhattan. They have one child who wowed St Timothy’s enough to earn a big scholarship. Dan and Gwen’s dreams of moving to the suburbs to raise a houseful of children have been destroyed by a gone wrong. Their child attends St Timothy’s because Dan heard it was the best school in town and while Dan and Gwen consider themselves “different from the others”, Dan wanted his daughter in the best school possible as he hasn’t really silenced his ambitions.
Phillipa Lye Skinker grew up in next town over from Gwen, didn’t attend college, and maybe didn’t even finish high school before she started a career in modelling that took her to Japan for a while, although her history isn’t fully clear to the other mothers. She somehow married Jed Skinker, current CEO of the last privately held investment bank who would prefer to be living on the farm in the country he inherited from his uncle. Nonetheless, although they have money coming out of their ears, Phillipa can’t remember to bring her purse with her during dropoff of the kids at St Timothy’s and the other mothers rescue her when she can’t pay for the taxi.
Minnie Curtis left her husband to marry John Curtis, a man aggressively climbing the ranks in finance, although perhaps not always according to Hoyle. Minnie worked at the same law firm at which Phillipa spent a short time before she met her to-be husband Jed in a bar. Minnie and John are clearly eager to become a large splash in high-end society in New York City so have enrolled their (too old?) daughter at St Timothy’s and Minnie pursues Phillipa to get a seat on a foundation board on which she’s a member.
Stage set for something to happen–which I won’t detail.
We do learn through this book that: more money = poorer diet for the kids (daily chicken nuggets vs homemade healthy stews); some wealthy mothers drink in the middle of the day; some wealthy attractive mothers send their nannies to pick up their kids from pre-school, but not chemical engineer-turned-stay-at home moms who are “different”; persons previously desirous of a relationship with wealthy attractive people will have their children be a no-show at a birthday party if the skeleton in that wealthy attractive person’s closest is exposed; even less than wealthy husbands cheat on their wives.
Macy’s book is entertaining. She gives “the rest of us” a particular lens into the “rich and famous”—specifically one that tells us we’re lucky not to be so “rich and famous”.