” Pride, envy, lust, greed, wrath, sloth, and gluttony. The seven deadly sins are all on display at the Little League park, oftentimes all at the same time. Parents cheering while wondering between pitches what it would be like to get jiggy with that mom or that dad, or parents seething over why their kid was not playing here, there, or more. ” (9:115)
If there is such a thing as “guy-lit” as supposed to chick-lit, this book is it. It encompasses sports, parenting, ambitions, marriage, and everyday incidents of a suburban town. Parents Behaving Badly, Gummer’s fiction debut, a Little League serves as the nexus for thwarted ambitions, competitive intrigues, marriage rifts, and teaching kids about sportsmanship. Ben and Jili Holden move from Manhattan back to their California hometown, where many broken and unfulfilled dreams are buried. As the couple, married for 15 years with three kids, adjust to their once familiar surroundings, they are drawn closer to the community by way of the little baseball league. In the midst of all that ensues, they also get answer about the unspoken questions about their marriage.
And yet while the adults struggled to know how they could move on from this, the kids from the Angels and the Royals all jostled and joked together in the snack shack line. The parents were mere bystanders and they were crestfallen, while the kids who actually did battle, the winners and the losers, were already over it. (10:145)
When Ben reluctantly takes up coaching after the authoritarian coach was suspended, he comes to grapple with his late father’s legacy as a revered high school athletic mentor, who was beloved by generations of players but largely a stranger to him. He is challenged to foster a more meaningful relationship with his teenage daughter. To call this humorous novel uproarious is an understatement, as the dynamic slew of subplots off the tangent of the Little League show how caught-up we can be with our ego. It is so devastatingly accurate and hit-home (pun intended) how parents can do more harm than good despite their best intentions. When kids want to play sports and have fun, their innocence are often sapped by the parents’ expectations.
We families that have supported this league for many years and with thousands of dollars for the promise that our kids would play competitive baseball when they got to Majors. (12:163)
Parents Behaving Badly is more than a sharp satire about youth sports madness and disintegration of manners exacerbated by aggressive behavior patterns on the adults’ behalf. It’s about marriage and how one navigates marital rifts. The book touches on the frustrations, insecurities, temptations, and questions that confront Ben and Jili’s marriage. It shines light on the children caught in the middle of sports madness and complicated domestic relations (a woman divorces her husband, who ends up marrying his ex-wife’s identical twin, and the woman herself marries his ex-husband’s father…), forced to live the dreams of their parents. The tales spinning off these characters meld together seamlessly; glued together by pain, fear, and laughter. The writing is so contemporary that it echoes off our daily interactions, not to mention we all probably know some of these characters down the block.
211 pp. Advanced Review Copy. [Read/
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