The Divining Wand

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Picture the Book:
The Mother-Daughter Show

February 02, 2012 By: larramiefg Category: Book Trailers, Books

Natalie Wexler is the author of an award-winning novel, A More Obedient Wife, and a journalist and essayist whose work has appeared in the Washington Post Magazine, the American Scholar, the Gettysburg Review, and other publications. Her latest novel, The Mother-Daughter Show, was published in December, 2011, to glowing praise:

“A terrific read. Funny and heartbreaking and so credible I laughed out loud.” Susan Shreve, author of Warm Springs: Traces of a Childhood at FDR’s Polio Haven.

“A wise and lively look at real grown-ups, alleged adults, and women-in-training. The setting is perfect for Natalie Wexler’s satire.” Susan Isaacs, author of As Husbands Go.

“Every page of this very contemporary page-turner is written with a heartfelt, humorous touch, with characters so vivid and real, they came to feel like friends I’d known forever.” Rachel Simon, author of The Story of Beautiful Girl.

“Witty and wise throughout, The Mother Daughter Show highlights Natalie Wexler’s keen perceptions–of family dynamics, social mores, and professional subcultures–and reminds us of life’s one constant: change.” Erika Dreifus, author of Quiet Americans.

A brief description of The Mother-Daughter Show:

At Barton Friends a D.C. prep school so elite its parent body includes the President and First Lady – three mothers have thrown themselves into organizing the annual musical revue. Will its Machiavellian intrigue somehow enable them to reconnect with their graduating daughters, who are fast spinning out of control? By turns hilarious and poignant, The Mother Daughter Show will appeal to anyone who’s ever had a daughter – and anyone who’s ever been one.

Now Picture the Book.

(If the video doesn’t appear on your monitor, please view it here.)

What was the author’s inspiration for the novel? Natalie Wexler explains:

“I wrote The Mother Daughter Show partly to try to maintain a sense of humor about a situation I found myself in—the real Mother Daughter Show, a longstanding tradition at Sidwell Friends School, where my daughter was a senior. Every year the mothers of graduating senior girls write and perform a musical revue for their daughters, and it seems like almost every year peculiar things happen between the mothers. I wanted to understand why—what was it about this situation that made people act in ways they usually don’t? One obvious possible reason was that the senior year of high school is a stressful year, for mothers as well as daughters: there’s the pressure of applying to college, the stress of wondering where your child will get in, and the emotions stirred by the prospect of your precious little girl leaving the nest.

So I wanted to explore that, but I also saw the novel as an opportunity to write more broadly about the mother-daughter relationship. I gave each of my three main characters a mother of her own as well as a teenage daughter, to allow for a multi-generational aspect to the book.”

As was mentioned, there’s a personal connection to the story since both Ms. Wexler’s two children are graduates of Sidwell Friends School. Therefore how much of the book is drawn from real life?

According to the author, “In terms of the details, not that much. To some extent I’m satirizing things that probably go on in any private school milieu (although as far as I’m aware, Sidwell is the only school that has a Mother Daughter Show). Of course, there’s a Washington, D.C. aspect that’s distinctive—for instance, a President’s daughter attends my fictional school, and the Obama girls currently attend Sidwell. But the Presidential daughter in the novel, who is an extremely minor character, is clearly not Sasha or Malia, any more than any of the characters are real people.

What I did borrow from real life about that situation is the excitement surrounding the presence of the First Family at the school, at least when they first got there (the novel begins in February 2009). In the book, tickets to the annual auction and the school play sell at an unprecedented rate, because people think the President and First Lady might show up. That really happened, more or less. Of course, as in the book, the President didn’t end up attending many school functions, apparently because he was a little preoccupied with trying to solve the nation’s problems.”

A satirical, absorbing read with compelling characters and a dishy setting,The Mother-Daughter Show offers a uniquely entertaining selection for you and/or your reading group.

Have a sneak peek with this Book Excerpt. Enjoy!