Reviewed by Amy Fish
Four Ways to Relate to and Appreciate Mama, Mama, Only Mama If You Are Not a Newly Single Parent (or a Parent at all) and Concluding Remarks
As a Feminist: In Mama, Mama, Only Mama: An Irreverent Guide to the Newly Single Parent – From Divorce and Dating to Cooking and Crafting, All While Raising the Kids and Maintaining Your Own Sanity (Sort Of), Lara deftly explores the dichotomy between motherhood and sexuality in an accessible way. She says, “One of the problems I have with society in general is that we tend to classify mothers as asexual beings with no needs besides the desire to nurture others…We can’t hold in our heads the idea that women can be both loving/nurturing/devoted parents and also still retain a separate identity that includes wanting fun and sex…” If you are looking for new feminist wars to wage, (although sadly, lately we’ve had no shortage of battles requiring immediate attention) the mom-as-sex-object one is an excellent reason to read this book.
As a Curious Onlooker: Lara lets you into her life using vivid descriptions and a confiding tone. For example, in one scene, her older son is staying in the hospital overnight and Lara wants to stay with him. The problem is, her ex-husband wants to stay too, which means that her younger son is also part of the sleepover team. Lara explains to us in detail how this works, including her tip for overnight hospital sleeping: “…adjust the hooks of your bra to the loosest setting, and loosen the shoulder straps as well – but don’t take it off.” Not only are we picturing the three of them sleeping surrounding the hospital bed, we now understand how Lillibridge tries to make her discomfort marginally comfortable. If you wonder about these kind of minute details, Mama, Mama, Only Mama (Skyhorse, May 2019) is right up your alley.
As a Bad Cook: Lara mentions that she grew up in a family where they lined up in front of the microwave and each person “nuked” their frozen dinners one at a time. She had no concept of home-cooked meals. If that resonates with you, or if you are culinary challenged (is that a word?) then you will identify with the recipes in this book. Lara gives instructions such as “[Buy] two bags of cheese. You probably only need one, but cheese is love and you never want to run out of love so I always buy two.” This cooking tip works for any of us, whether we fall on the love-needing spectrum. She has dessert suggestions too; my favorite recipes are the crunched-up snacks with melted chocolate chips and the s’more stew.
As a Fan of Memoirs: Although the title calls Mama, Mama, Only Mama a Guide, to me, it’s a memoir of Lara’s journey from married to single to a committed relationship with SigO (as she calls her domestic partner in the book). I love memoirs as much as the next Creative Non-Fictioner, but let’s face it, we tend to be a rather dark species. The last book I read was about a woman who throws her kids off a bridge. Great read for sure, but this is certainly a nice change of pace. Lara’s stories are honest and real – and funny. She accidentally sews a dildo for her son. She inadvertently locks the keys in the house. She learns to go out to dinner by herself. We love her misadventures and we applaud her successes. That’s the way reading should be.
In conclusion: I don’t think you have to be a single parent to appreciate this book. Lara’s writing is lively and draws you right in. She tackles some difficult issues such as financial disparity and the imbalance of power in relationships but does so in a gentle way so that you feel like you’re having an iced capp on her couch, in your jammies. Overall, I highly recommend this book. If I had to give it one criticism, just for balance, I would probably say that the title doesn’t do it justice. It is not only for Mamas.