Every author has a story beyond the one that they put down on paper. The Barnes & Noble Podcast goes between the lines with today’s most interesting writers, exploring what inspires them, what confounds them, and what they were thinking when they wrote the books we’re talking about.
Tom Perrotta can be hard to pin down: in Election, he wickedly sent up American politics with a dark comedy of high school ambition; his treatment of suburban couples in 2004’s bestseller Little Children earned him a comparison to Chekhov in the New York Times. And in 2011’s The Leftovers, he pushed the boundaries of realism and fantasy to create a haunting meditation on loss.
His latest novel, Mrs. Fletcher, breaks new ground again, with the story of a middle-aged single mother who finds herself exploring a new identity – one in part defined by her sudden exposure to the world of internet pornography. Simultaneously, the novel tracks Eve’s son Brendan as he arrives at college, full of ideas and desires that have been influenced by the same online sources. On this episode, the author talks with Bill Tipper about his eyes-wide-open confrontation with American sexuality in forms virtual and otherwise.
Eve Fletcher is trying to figure out what comes next. A forty-six-year-old divorcee whose beloved only child has just left for college, Eve is struggling to adjust to her empty nest when one night her phone lights up with a text message. Sent from an anonymous number, the mysterious sender tells Eve, “U R my MILF!” Over the months that follow, that message comes to obsess Eve. While leading her all-too-placid life—serving as Executive Director of the local senior center by day and taking a community college course on Gender and Society at night—Eve can’t curtail her own interest in a porn website called MILFateria.com, which features the erotic exploits of ordinary, middle-aged women like herself. Before long, Eve’s online fixations begin to spill over into real life, revealing new romantic possibilities that threaten to upend her quiet suburban existence.
Meanwhile, miles away at the state college, Eve’s son Brendan—a jock and aspiring frat boy—discovers that his new campus isn’t nearly as welcoming to his hard-partying lifestyle as he had imagined. Only a few weeks into his freshman year, Brendan is floundering in a college environment that challenges his white-dude privilege and shames him for his outmoded, chauvinistic ideas of sex. As the New England autumn turns cold, both mother and son find themselves enmeshed in morally fraught situations that come to a head on one fateful November night.
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