Monday, March 14, 2011

The Demise of the Soccer Moms by Cathryn Grant

The hardest part about talking about this book is deciding on my introduction. I usually give a little story...something about me that relates to the book I just read. That's how reading is for me. Personal. My problem isn't that I don't have something to relate to the book, it's that I have too many real life experiences that pulled me inside the story. The story in this book is so realistically written that I found myself recalling several experiences in my life, all of which left me depressed and somewhat irritated.

For instance, I could tell you about the time our family was run out of town after my brother went to prison for attempted murder. Things like that get noticed in a small town and people form opinions. I could also tell you that I've been a victim of a horrific crime, and relay to you in agonizing detail just how difficult it is knowing that no one is going to help you seek justice. Or there was this time that I joined this group in the neighborhood that met regularly once a week because, at the time, none of us had children. We thought we were cool, but it quickly took a wrong turn when people started having children and others in the group no longer wanted them to attend. Oh, and I pretty much got booted from the group when Richard had to work in Wyoming for a couple of years. "Don't you think it's inappropriate for you to be coming to these activities without your spouse." And  then there was this time when a lady in the neighborhood told me, "I think it's about time you put a For Sale sign in your yard?"

Ya, women can be vicious at times...and it totally comes through in this book.

With her shoulders pressed against the wall, she could still see a sliver of the living room. The man rolled off her mother's body and yanked her hair, snapping her head sideways. He whispered in her ear. Then he smacked her face with the back of his hand.

The Demise of the Soccer Moms centers around Amy Lewis, a woman who becomes outwardly perfect and inwardly a disaster after she witnesses her mother's brutal rape as a child.  The tragic event left Amy's mother depressed and withdrawn when her father insisted that Amy's mother was a victim because she didn't try hard enough to fight back. When Amy's mother becomes withdrawn and eventually commits suicide, Amy becomes determined to make a perfect life for her own family. She's married the perfect husband, lives in the perfect neighborhood and is raising two perfect twin daughters that love to play soccer.

Life in perfect suburbia starts to head south when a series of rapes in the area leave Amy feeling anxious and overly paranoid. This, after all, is a woman that has a secret she has never told her friends. And if you think the big secret has to do with her mother's rape, you'd be mistaken. The secret that lies beneath the surface is so disturbing and shocking there were times that Amy's behavior made me want to reach into the pages of the book and strangle her, if only to save the rest of the characters that I had grown to love.

If the rapes weren't enough to throw a dent into Amy's perfect world, add to the mix, Charlotte Whittington, the 'braless' single mother that has the audacity to allow her daughter (that has never played soccer) to join the soccer team.  Due to Amy's learned opinions from her father, she immediately passes judgment on Charlotte and enlists the aid of her insecure and loving BFF, Rachel Matthews, to help take Charlotte down.

Charlotte, having moved to Sunnyvale to escape her own past and make a new life for her daughter, finds herself being stalked and physically threatened by a soccer mom that everyone knows has issues, but for some reason isn't concerned about getting her help.  From damaged photographs to dead birds being left on her porch, Charlotte is left to fight a battle of psychological wits with a woman that lost her stability many years before Charlotte came to town.

I probably sound extremely cold and heartless for not having sympathy for Amy and her past, especially with the sympathy dripping from the opening pages. Well, too bad!  Look, I get that not everyone deals with tragedy and hardships the same, but I will never agree with using your past to make excuses for your conduct now or in the future. Amy Lewis struck a nerve with me like no other character I have ever read about. I'm angry with her. I was angry with her when her true secret was revealed and everything she did after that made my anger multiply. The ending of this book killed me.

But... all of this is a good thing. I like reading books and developing relationships with characters that make me think. The Demise Of The Soccer Moms is Cathryn Grant's first novel and her characters are well developed and the storyline is amazingly full of tension from the very first page. On the surface you may think that a book about soccer moms can't be suspenseful or entertaining, but you'd be wrong. My only disappointment is that I don't know of anyone else that has read this yet.  I want to sit around the table and vent my frustrations about the women of Sunnyvale just like I do with my girlfriends when a new Black Dagger Brotherhood novel comes out.

I want to talk! Scream! Cry!

About Cathryn Grant

Cathryn Grant’s short fiction has appeared in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine and Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine. Her short story, “I Was Young Once” received an honorable mention from Joyce Carol Oates in the 2007 Zoetrope All-story Short Fiction contest.

In her first Suburban Noir novel, THE DEMISE OF THE SOCCER MOMS, a provocative single mother permanently alters the lives of four Silicon Valley soccer moms. It’s available now as an eBook at and Smashwords. The print version will be available in late January. Her second novel, BURIED BY DEBT, will be released in November 2011.

Cathryn’s flash fiction has been published at Every Day Fiction and at her website under Flash Fiction for the cocktail hour. One reader commented that she “makes the mundane menacing”.

All her life, Cathryn has irritated family, friends, and co-workers by incessantly asking, Why? In real crime, the why is often left unanswered. Her fiction explores the social and psychological forces that could drive an ordinary person to commit a crime, especially homicide.

When she’s not writing, Cathryn works in high tech, reads, and plays very high-handicap golf. In the winter she huddles by the fire with a glass of scotch, a bowl of popcorn, a novel, her husband, and two cats.

For Cathryn’s blog & free fiction schedule as well as an explanation of Manic Mondays and Fatal Fridays, click here.


Leah Anderson said...

Oh, my gosh! I can't wait to read this! What a hook! I can't wait to commiserate with you about this book!!!

Natasha said...

Great review! Especially since you brought the story and characters all to life so well and tied it to your own experience.

I too thought Cathryn did an excellent job with this - her first novel - and I'm looking forward to reading more.

And now I want to read more of your reviews as well....

gbeck said...

Your review of this book is great. I can't wait to read the book and talk with you about it!! I love to read books and discuss them with others. My sister and I do that all of the time.

Christine said...

This book "Demise of the Soccer Moms" sounds very intriguing. Being a baseball and soccer mom I'm sure I'll be able to relate to the great book you so greatly described. I will have to buy this book and then perhaps we could all have a little conflab in the lunch room to discuss. Thanks as usual, Sabrina/Kate for "getting into the meat and flesh" of the story for us. Keep up the good work.

Sara said...

This story sounds very interesting. I have bought it on Smashwords and can't wait to read it! A lot of times the things I read in books make me mad or upset, but then I think, that is the reason there are books, to bring out emotion. Thanks again, Sabrina, for a wonderful review.

Sabrina E. Ogden said...

People are wanting to know what I said to the lady who wanted me to put a For Sale sign in my yard...

"I was here before you and I'll be here long after you've gone. The only way a For Sale sign ends up in my yard is if you put it there. And trust me, it won't be very fun for you if you do."

Proud moment for my hubby!

Dorte H said...

I read "Soccer Moms" and loved it. I always love Cathryn´s characters, and I wish I had the time (and talent) to write such a wonderful review.

And I laughed at your for sale story. I teach, and once or twice I have told a particular type of students that no matter what they do, I´ll stay on long after they have gone - and I´ll even be paid to be there ;)

Cathryn Grant said...

Thanks for a terrific review!

You have some amazing stories about life in suburbia. Your response to the "for sale" sign is the kind of story where I can imagine climactic music playing and the audience cheering in a film.