Back in February, I connected with author Lindsay Powers (leader of the #noshame parentingmovement) after reading and reviewing an advanced copy of her book You Can’t F*ck Up Your Kids through her publisher Atria Books.
Minor Dramas & Other Catastrophes by Kathleen West
Perfect for fans of Where’d You Go, Bernadette and Small Admissions, a wry and cleverly observed debut novel about the privileged bubble that is Liston Heights High–the micro-managing parents, the overworked teachers, and the students caught in the middle–and the fallout for each of them when the bubble finally bursts.
Isobel Johnson knows helicopter parents like Julia Abbott–a stage mom whose world revolves around interfering in her children’s lives–come with the territory. Julia resents teachers like Isobel, who effortlessly bond with students, including Julia’s own teenagers, who have started pulling further away from her.
Isobel has spent her teaching career in Liston Heights side-stepping the community’s high-powered families. But when she receives a threatening voicemail accusing her of Anti-Americanism and a “blatant liberal agenda,” she realizes she’s squarely in the fray. Rather than cowering, Isobel doubles down on her social-justice ideals. Meanwhile, Julia, obsessed with the casting of the high school’s winter musical, inadvertently shoves the female student-lead after sneaking onto the school campus. The damning video footage goes viral and has far-reaching consequences for Julia and her entire family.
With nothing to unite them beyond the sting of humiliation from public meltdowns, Isobel and Julia will find common ground where they least expect it, confronting a secret Facebook gossip site that’s stirring up more trouble for this tumultuous, fractured school community.
February 4th, 2020
Minor Dramas & Other Catastrophes is a nuanced look at school politics at a prestigious school in an affluent Minnesota community. Written with humor and plenty of drama, West succeeds at sharing a look at high school life from the perspective of a well-meaning teacher who gets caught in the web of meeting the demands and expectations of parents/administrators and other teachers. We meet a slew of characters who set the scene and it is all too relatable to anyone who has ever been a part of a school community, whether as a teacher, parent or both.
There are helicopter parents, bullying on social media and conflicts between faculty and families. And then there are the students just trying to get through their high school years. The overbearing parents rule the roost at this school and West shares a great balance of laughable moments that seem totally unbeliever (unless you have been there and then you get it!) mixed with insight about just what students AND teachers are up against these days.
I found Minor Dramas & Other Catastrophes to be a light read with a great mix of thought-provoking and timely topics many of us can relate to. While some of the storylines may seem over the top, for me, they added to the complexities schools deal with in this digital age. I did struggle at times with keeping track of all the characters but all in all, this was a very enjoyable book that would make for a great book club discussion!
More about Author Kathleen West:
Kathleen West is a veteran middle and high-school teacher. She graduated with a degree in English from Macalester College and holds a Master’s degree in literacy education from the University of Minnesota. She lives in Minneapolis with her hilarious husband, two sporty sons, and very bad Goldendoodle.
For more information, please visit: https://www.kathleenwestbooks.
Thank you to Berkley Publishing for an advanced copy.
Disclosure: Some of the links above are affiliate links. This means if you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission that helps support this blog at no cost to you. Thank you!
The Kids Are in Bed by Rachel Bertsche
Journalist, bestselling author of MWF Seeking BFF, and mother of two Rachel Bertsche tries to find calm among the chaos and reclaim a personal life while raising her young kids and offers solutions for how all parents can do the same, once The Kids Are in Bed.
Picture it—it’s 8:30 p.m. You close the door to your child’s room just as you hear your partner closing the dishwasher. Your home is clean (enough). You’ve dealt with all the last-minute work emails. And now it’s time for an hour or two of glorious freedom. What do you do? Read the book you’ve been waiting to crack open all day? Chat on the phone with a friend, glass of wine in hand, or go out and meet old friends and share a whole bottle? Or, like many modern parents, do you get caught up in chores, busywork, and social media black holes?
Recent time-use studies show that even working parents have as many as 30 hours of leisure time a week, yet very few people know how to actually use that time to do something— anything!—pleasurable and fulfilling. In an original survey conducted for this book, 71 percent of parents said their free time didn’t feel free at all, because they were still thinking about all the things they should be doing for their kids, their jobs, and their households.
Rachel Bertsche constantly found herself in exactly that bind. Using a combination of memoir, interviews with scientists and parenting experts, and input from moms and dads all over the country, Rachel figured out how to transform her own patterns and reconnect to her pre-kids life. In The Kids Are in Bed, other parents can learn how to do the same, and truly enjoy the time after lights out.
January 7th, 2020
The Kids Are in Bed was my first book by Rachel Bertsche. In a society where people (and especially parents) are feeling more burnt out than ever before, I love the idea of rethinking the time that we DO have. The Kids Are in Bed shared some proactive ideas for parents about not getting “stuck” in every day (sometimes very monotonous) family life grind and utilizing the downtime that you do have in your daily/weekly/monthly schedules.
I thought Bertsche really succeeded at sharing helping everyday tips and hack to not falling into the trap of not having enough time for ourselves, our marriage, friendships, etc. While life may look a lot different than it did “before kids” and the “downtime” we have may well be less, when we look at our habits and chunks of time, it can help us adjust the way we utilize it.
I did find that the stories in The Kids Are In Bed were primarily about her own very specific situation (with fairly young children), and although she did share ideas cited directly from other sources, I would have loved for there to be a bigger variety of examples of family life, especially with different aged children.
The challenges vary so much as you move through the life stages of having kids at home from babies to teens…all with their own set of positives and challenges. I think this would open this book up to a larger audience and also help broaden the perspective beyond her own immediate experiences.
Thank you to NetGalley and Dutton Books for an advanced copy. All opinions are my own.