May 23, 2011

Book Review: S’Mother by Adam Chester

Posted in Book Reviews tagged , , , , , at 10:08 am by The Word Jar

When Adam Chester left his mother in Florida to attend the University of Southern California, he intended to leave all traces of his mother behind. He would finally be free of the woman who’d bring his forgotten sweater to him while he was still changing in the boys’ locker room. But Joan Chester would not be left behind. Not while her son needed her protection. And so she began to send him letters. Lots of letters. And Adam kept every one. Now he gets to exact his embarrassment revenge in the appropriately titled S’Mother: The Story of a Man, His Mom, and the Thousands of Altogether Insane Letters She’s Mailed Him, a collection of the best Joan Chester letters he received.

Joan Chester did not send run-of-the-mill “How’s college? Miss you lots!” letters. These missives were filled with such sage advice as “[I]f you buy U.S. Savings Bonds, you have to keep them in a safe deposit box at the bank so no one can steal them” and “Have a good time next weekend and take your stomach medication with you in case you eat onions again.” Valuable life lessons. But this correspondence was not all fun and games for Joan. She repeatedly reminds Adam—as she’s “getting on in years”—where her will and insurance policies are located if he should ever need to find them.

The letters continue throughout Adam’s adult life—after graduation, after he meets his wife, after he’s hired as an Elton John stand-in. The short collection highlighted in S’Mother jumps from letter to letter with only the shortest setup or reaction from Adam. While the letters (some complete with reproductions) are highly entertaining, this quick read could have easily fit in more backstory without slowing down the pace.

Chester freely admits that this book was meant to help readers feel better about their moms, but he has a genuine gift in all this material. For all of her mundane and inane information, Joan has provided her son with a tangible stash of motherly love. In this age of trite texts and tweets, a whole generation is growing up not knowing the joy of opening the mail box to find not only bills and solicitations, but also handwritten letters. That you can keep. Without the fear of losing them if your computer crashes or your phone ends up in the pool. Chester wrote and compiled this book for the entertainment of others, and perhaps to poke a little fun at his mom, but I’d also bet he realizes just how lucky he is.

Joan Chester may not win any Mother of the Year awards, but she can’t be accused of not caring about her son. She practically wrote a book for him. Adam cashed in on this valuable material in S’Mother and so does the reader.

(Review copy source: Abrams via NetGalley)

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