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Originally published October 7, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified October 7, 2007 at 2:01 AM

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Book review

This mom is so not Bellevue material

"Odd Mom Out" by Jane Porter 5 Spot, 432 pp., $13.99 In "Odd Mom Out," Jane Porter ("Flirting with Forty," "The Frog Prince") has produced...

Author appearance

 

Jane Porter will read from "Odd Mom Out" at 6:30 p.m. Friday at Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park. Free (206-366-3333; www.thirdplacebooks.com).

"Odd Mom Out"

by Jane Porter

5 Spot, 432 pp., $13.99

In "Odd Mom Out," Jane Porter ("Flirting with Forty," "The Frog Prince") has produced a witty and warm-hearted tale about a transplanted Manhattan-to-Bellevue mom who doesn't quite fit in — much to the dismay of her preteen daughter.

When Marta Zinsser, a Manhattan advertising whiz, moves back to her native Northwest with daughter Eva to open a new branch of the firm, she encounters unexpected resistance on several fronts. Maybe it's because Marta, who wears combat boots and camouflage pants and loves to roar around on her Harley, is a little different from the perfectly manicured Bellevue mothers who assemble for formal discussions about school committee rosters and sign-up sheets. Or perhaps it's because Eva not only doesn't have a father, she was conceived with the assistance of a sperm bank.

Proudly independent, Marta doesn't want to change into twinsets and pearls, nor does she want to become the kind of Stepford wife that populates author Porter's version of Bellevue. But bright little Eva, whose great desire is to fit in with her peers, imagines a rosier future — one with a wedding, a father, a more conventional family lifestyle. Meanwhile, the snooty girls at school in the social circle Eva is dying to enter are cruel about rebuffing her and boycotting her party.

Porter is at her best in creating the mother-daughter scenes, full of bristling dialogue but also the kind of mutual tenderness that shows the deep bonds of their relationship. There's also the comic twist of having the strait-laced young daughter appalled by the behavior of the unconventional and rebellious mother.

Complicating matters for Marta are some downturns in her business; the inevitable conflict between spending enough time on work and enough time with her daughter; the distance looming between her and her two most supportive friends on the other coast; and all kinds of issues with her mother.

The arrival in Marta's life of a tall, handsome billionaire is the only time "Odd Mom Out" takes a really obvious turn, even though Mr. Perfect makes for an irresistible denouement for Porter's plot line.

Elsewhere, the novel's charm lies in its avoidance of the obvious: even the Bellevue arch-snob Taylor, who at first seems like a shallow caricature, has a few cracks in her polished facade. Best of all is Porter's affectionately accurate and humorous take on mother-daughter dynamics; Eva may not have had a dad, but she's not short on high-quality parenting.

Reviewed by Melinda Bargreen,

Seattle Times music critic

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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