Some writers—well, Frazier anyway—can make you start laughing merely by anticipation, and all the more so at the prospect of an entire novel devoted to the Cursing Mommy, one of his finest creations and the star of many a New Yorker column. The unnamed wife to hapless Larry, and mother of quasi-psychotic Trevor, 12 (“Honey, if you ever read this, please use words to express your reaction, not hitting or knives”), and terrified eight-year-old Kyle, not infrequently finds herself imbibing the first cocktail of the day at 8:15 a.m. The CM strives for serenity but is usually overwhelmed by the stress of daily life. One morning, after dispatching husband and children, the CM tries to take a moment for herself, wrapping her fingers around a cup of coffee and gazing heavenward: “The goddamn f–king kitchen ceiling needs to be repaired.”
But she is determined, if not entirely sane, and for a whole year the CM intends to pick herself up—often literally, as when she slips in the front-yard muck while attempting to destroy the giant snow penis Trevor erected—and craft a spiritual diary-like Book of Days. Her spectacular failure is the reader’s gain.
There’s a plot involving Larry’s creepy boss and his unwelcome desire for the CM, and subplots galore, including the effects of education funding cutbacks (the local school has regular Repaint the Bricks Days). Above all, there is the Cursing Mommy herself in all her rage-fuelled glory: her book club (now reading Lesser-known Criminals of the Bush Administration), her intense interest in Trevor’s medication (currently “lobotomy derivatives of the nightshade family,” with possible side effects that include growing a second row of teeth) and her awesome zero-to-60 transitions from sweet reasonableness to unhinged voice of our times.
Faced with a recalcitrant zipper on a suitcase, the CM has at it with scissors: “Goddamn f–king suitcase that we bought during the Bush Administration, when suitcases in this country started going to shit!! F–king goddamn Dick Cheney!!”