Reader's Guide is now available. It contains two pages worth
of questions and is in PDF form.
Here are some sample questions.
Alert: Looking at the Readers Guide may give away key
did you think of the attitude towards
Lucy by the women at the country club
pool? Do you think women
are generally catty towards other women
who are going through a tough time? Does
wealth and social status have a lot to
do with our outlook and attitude? Compare
Nathan’s attitude towards Lucy as opposed to Taylor’s.
was your impression of Nathan’s character? What sort of husband and father
is he? What are some of his strengths that endear him as a man and what
are some of his failings? Did Taylor deserve a husband like Nathan? Did he
deserve a wife like Taylor?
··· Discuss Taylor’s
fashion sense and her addiction to retail therapy. Do you love to shop?
Have you ever relied on retail therapy to get you through some emotionally
tough situations in life? Should people seek help for this as a legitimate
Chapter 23, Taylor says, “People
with money are respected. People
with money are listened to.” Do
you agree with this? How much
impact does social standing have
on women and mothers in today’s
world? Are we, as women, guilty
of letting social standing color our judgment of other women even
on a subconscious level?
perfectionism and happiness find a reasonable balance in life? Can
a woman lead an honest life if she is always giving the illusion
of being the perfect mother and perfect wife with a perfect family
the entire Reader's
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I live in Bellevue. But I am neither Marta (Odd
Mom Out) or Taylor (Mrs.
Perfect). I don't own a Harley
and I don't live in a house like the one Taylor and Nathan
have built.I write fiction. I love writing fiction. That
said, I do draw a lot from life. Many of the restaurants
and shops mentioned in the books are places I like to frequent.
The roads Marta and Taylor drive on are the roads in my day
to day life. There is some of me in the hopes and dreams
of my characters to be sure (and some of their hang-ups,
too -- but I'll never tell!) -- but the part of me in these
books is really the setting.
See how much of Jane is in other books.
» A Chat with Marta, Taylor, and Girls
I’ve brought together today two sets of mothers and daughters in Bellevue, Washington to discuss current issues in Points Elementary School.
Bellevue, a city of one hundred thousand, lies six miles across the 520 bridge from downtown Seattle and is the home to the original Microsoft billionaires, the founders of Amazon, and the father of wireless technology. It’s a place where wealth is still referred to as new and old money and you’re never quite sure who has what due to a rather bizarre mix of Hummers, bling bling and Land’s End flannel.
Our panel includes single parent and graphic artist Marta Zinsser and her nine year old daughter, Eva who have recently returned to the Pacific Northwest from Manhattan; Taylor Young, wife of Nathan Taylor, and a full-time Bellevue mother very active in the school and community, as well as Taylor’s nine year old daughter, Jemma, who is undeniably the most popular 4th grade girl at Points Elementary.
Jane Porter: “Marta, let’s start with you. How has the move been?”
Marta: “Bellevue, Washington summed up in two words? PTA Moms. Women in Bellevue have way too much time on their hands. Not that they think they do. But pilates, play dates, and school auction committee meetings dominate their days leading to near nervous breakdowns and comparisons of who ought to be Mother of the Year. I know I’ll never be Mother of the Year. Just ask my nine year old daughter, Eva, who has recently informed me that I’m not a real mom, not like the other moms, and all she wants is for me to be everybody else. But here’s the crazy part: I worked hard to become who I am. I fought the peer pressure, ignored the criticism, and I followed the beat of my own drummer. And this is one of the reasons I had the confidence and courage to became a single mom—I thought I knew what mattered in life.
JP: “Eva, are you unhappy with your mom?”
Eva: “I love my mom, but we’re not in New York anymore. This is Bellevue and moms here are don’t wear boots and army jackets and ride motorcycles. They’re well… like Mrs. Young and they volunteer at school and help out a lot.
JP: “So Eva, you wish your mother was more like Mrs. Taylor?”
Eva: “Yes. Sorry, Mom.”
JP: “Taylor, you’ve lived here for approximately fourteen years now. How would you describe Bellevue?”
Taylor: “As a great perfect place to raise a family. We have some of the best schools, libraries and parks anywhere. With ski slopes just forty-five minutes away, and professional sports teams and all the arts in downtown Seattle, we have everything anyone could want. But it is expensive, and stressful. My life is all about my three girls, and I feel the pressure. There are days I can barely drag myself to my pilates—but I do, because the kids need me. Being a full-time mother is a full-time job and it’s by far the hardest job I’ve ever had to do.
Frankly, it’d be so much easier to have an outside job. To just get up and go to work and feel appreciated. But I’m a mom, and this isn’t about my ego, it’s about putting the kids first. And that’s why I volunteer at school, serve on the PTA board, assist in the classroom, and co-chair this year’s school auction. The kids need the best education possible. It’s a competitive world and unless we make our kids competitive, they won’t have all the opportunities they deserve.
JP: “Jemma, you must be proud of your mom.”
Jemma: “Yeah, she works really hard. She has meetings almost every night. Sometimes we don’t see her because she’s always rushing to another meeting.
JP: “Jemma, you and Eva must be good friends. You’re both in the same class at school.”
Jemma: “Um, not really. We have different friends.”
JP: “Do you ever talk?”
Jemma: “We don’t have anything to talk about.”
JP: “I see. And Eva, who are your friends?”
Eva: “Mmm, well, I don’t have anyone I really do stuff with right now but I hope pretty soon Jemma and I will be friends. I like her a lot. But everybody does.”
Marta: “That’s one of the reasons I’m getting involved at school. I work a lot and haven’t really spent enough time getting to know the kids in Eva’s class. I’m hoping by becoming a room mom that I’ll be able to help Eva meet more kids, and arrange more play dates.”
JP: “Taylor, you look like you’re dying to say something.”
Taylor: “I think it’s great that Mrs. Zinsser wants to help in the classroom, but she’s never even sent cupcakes in before. Why does she think she’s qualified to be Head Room Mom?”
Marta: “I didn’t ask to be head, but I’m happy to do what I can—“
Taylor: “You do know about the class auction projects, don’t you? The school’s live auction is the biggest fundraiser of the year and the class projects are a big money maker. (turns to JP) With the quarter million we raise every year at our annual live auction we’re able to bring in math experts, buy the newest in technology, purchase new books for the library. The PTA is invaluable. We make a huge difference for the school.”
JP: “Do all schools in Bellevue have an auction?”
Taylor: “All the good ones do—“
Marta: “Maybe we should be raising money for kids in East Bellevue, for those that come from immigrant families or impoverished families instead of our kids that already have so much.”
Taylor: “If our kids want to go to college, and we want them to go to college, then they need a competitive education.”
Marta: “And the kids across town don’t want to go to college?”
Taylor: “They can have their own auction.”
Marta: “Do you know how ignorant that is?”
Taylor: “If you don’t like The Points—“
Marta: “I never said I disliked The Points. My problem is with people who can’t see what’s beyond their nose.”
Taylor: “And what’s beyond my nose?”
Marta: “Nothing, apparently.”
Eva: “Mom!” (She reaches across the table, grabs Marta’s hand.)
Marta looks at her daughter then back at Taylor.
Marta: “We need to go.”
Taylor: “Don’t let the door hit you on your way out.”
JP: “I think that went well, don’t you? Thank you Youngs and Zinssers. For more on Marta and Eva pick up a copy of Odd Mom Out and then in May, read Taylor’s point of view in Mrs. Perfect.
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It’s Back To School Night tonight and I’m giving one of the welcoming speeches, which means I’ve woken up feeling as I’ve already drunk ten cups of coffee even though I’m still lying in bed.
Things are good, I tell myself. I’m doing good. No need to stress. I just need to relax.
I wish I knew why I have such a hard time relaxing. It’s almost as if I am afraid something bad will happen if I’m not constantly in control.
Voices waft from downstairs. From what I can hear, Nathan’s in the kitchen trying to get the girls to eat their breakfasts. He’s usually so patient with them but unfortunately today doesn’t seem to be one of those days and Tori—or is it Brooke?—begins to wail.
Grimacing I pull on the nearest thing I can find, my Juicy tracksuit, as I think about my day. I’m supposed to meet Patti at noon to discuss the auction and the auction chair meeting scheduled for next week. I’d normally have yard duty but I traded with another mom so I could meet with Patti. The morning’s more or less free and I consider taking an exercise class. I need some exercise.
In the walk-in closet I glance at myself in the walk in closet’s full length mirror. In my track suit I look fine but the soft fabric can hide the truth so I pull up the jacket and pull down the bottoms exposing my stomach, hips and boobs. I do this almost everyday. Sometimes what I see is okay, sometimes I can only see ugliness, can only see where my waist is thick and how I’m round across my stomach where I know it should be flat.
Now I touch my stomach, try to suck it in even more, looking for definition, turning to the side to check my width.
The most fashionable women, the truly stylish women, are all thin. Every month when my new issue of Town & Country comes, I leaf through “Parties” to see if I know anyone. And to see if I look better than anyone.
I don’t like that I do this. But I’m so afraid if I don’t keep on top of the situation, of me, I won’t matter.
Usually all the couples in Parties are well known, society staples and celebrity faces, and nearly every woman looks like a greyhound that’s just come from a spa. Their skin is taut and glows and they’re all racehorse thin. But every now and then one woman looks a little bigger, sturdier, than the rest of the stick figures in their couture gowns, and I breathe a little sigh of relief—I’m not that fat!—even as I feel a prick of pity that they’re not as skinny. Privately, I don’t understand this preoccupation with weight and figures. I never even think twice about the men in the Parties pictures. It’s a non-issue if a man is stout in his tux, or narrow through the shoulder, or thinning at the scalp. Men don’t have to be model perfect. Men just have to be men.
Tugging up my bottoms and yanking down the jacket I tell myself I should go to Pilates this morning. It’d do me good. But it’s LuLu in the studio today and LuLu’s style doesn’t work as well for me.
Instead I drop to the carpet next to my chaise and go through a couple yoga poses, hoping that five minutes floor work will equal an hour Pilates. Closing my eyes I take a pose, focus on breathing, focus on stretching, focus on being present and in the moment.
Less than two minutes into my routine, Jemma crashes through the door, interrupting my downward dog. “I can’t find my butterfly hair elastic,” she cries, her long blonde hair caught in one fist.
“Did you check your room?” I ask, turning my head to peer through my arms at her as I inhale slowly to a count of three.
“Yes, and it’s not there.”
I exhale slowly to a count of three. “Then it’s probably in your bathroom.”
“It’s not there, either. I’ve looked. Everywhere.”
I’m inhaling again and it takes me a moment to answer. “Then I don’t know what to tell you.”
I stand, brush off my hands, trying to ignore the low blue feeling that engulfs me. “Jemma, it’s your hair elastic.”
“And you’re my mom,” she flashes before flouncing off.
Fifteen minutes later I’ve got the girls rounded up, backpacks on their backs, lunches in hand and I walk them to their bus stop. Nathan’s upstairs in the bathroom shaving at his sink when I return to the house.
Our bathroom is enormous, a true spa retreat with heated marble parquet floor, his and her counters and sinks, glass shower, whirlpool tub, and heated towel bars.
“You’re heading to work late today,” I say, leaning against one of the brown and white marble counters. This marble is probably my favorite stone in the house. Dark cocoa richly veined in white. It’s glamorous and masculine as the same time.
He makes a face in the mirror. He’s shaving his neck now and pauses to tap his razor in the sink. “I’m actually heading to the airport. I’ve an eleven o’clock flight.”
“You’re going out of town?” I can’t quite suppress the sharp edge in my voice. “Why didn’t you mention it before?”
“I wasn’t sure I’d need to go until last night and you had bookclub and then I fell asleep.”
I frown. His explanation is suspect at best. “I’d think you would have told me first thing this morning again.”
“You were asleep and then I was getting kids ready for school.”
“You telling me you’re leaving town is more important than feeding kids Fruit Loops!”
He looks at me in the mirror. His brown eyes hold mine. “I’m
He sounds sincere but at the same time something doesn’t feel right. “But it’s Back-to-School Night tonight.”
He uses a washcloth to wipe away shaving cream residue. “You’ve
got it down. You don’t need me there and I need to be in Omaha.”
I shake my head. “Arkansas two weeks ago. Omaha today. What’s
He rinses his razor, takes his time answering, and when he finally speaks his voice is pitched low, his tone almost excessively patient. “I’ll try to get back tonight, but if I can’t wrap everything up today, I’ll be home tomorrow night. Either way, I’ll call you and let you know when I know more.”
I don’t know if it’s his tone, or his expression, but I feel something small and hard and sharp form in my gut as he combs his hair and then heads for our closet.
He’s my Nathan but he’s also a
“Don’t you want to hear more about the girls’ teachers
and their year?” I ask, following him.
“You’ll tell me,” he answers, reaching for his suit
jacket. “You always do.”
His answer perplexes me and I stand there,
arms at my side, my brain racing to make sense of what he’s saying and what he’s
not saying. This isn’t the Nathan I know. This isn’t the
devoted dad who never missed anything pertaining to his children. “Are
you okay? Are you not feeling well?”
“I’m feeling fine.” But he’s picking up his
briefcase and a small overnight bag and I can’t help it, but
I feel like he’s shutting me out.
The cold sharp knot in my gut grows bigger and I open my mouth to
ask what I really want to know.
Are we okay?
Is there someone else?
Will you always love me?
But I don’t. I can’t. Instead
I kiss him and let him leave.
For a long moment I don’t know what I feel.
I don’t know what to
do with myself, either. I have a half
hour before I have to drop Tori off at
preschool. I should go sit with her.
She’s just lying
on the floor of the family room watching
cartoons. Instead I sit down at my laptop
computer in the little room off our bedroom
that serves as my home office/wrapping
paper/scrapbook room and get on the internet
to check out the flights to Sun Valley
for the winter holiday. $380 each. Not
bad. Not great. But it could be worse.
I know Nathan said we couldn’t go this year, but he can’t
be serious. Sun Valley is the place to be, and I love the town of Ketchum.
Tons of our friends have houses or condos there. We usually book two
hotel rooms but this year we won’t go to a hotel. We can just
stay with Kate and Bill. Their house is enormous—a seven bedroom,
seven bath, ten thousand square foot lodge—and they’ve
asked us to stay with them every year. I book the five tickets, and
then reserve the car. By saving on hotel, it’s almost free, isn’t
Back in my room I strip off my Juicy tracksuit, rummage through my
built-in wardrobe drawers searching for my tiny pink Cosabella thong
panties and the matching pink bra.
Years ago when I bought my first $200-plus bra, I felt guilty and sick. But $200 for a bra is nothing now. All of my lingerie is expensive. But it’s Italian, and French.
Nathan claims that no one in his family ever spent that kind of money on underwear, and that people with real money don’t blow it. The truly rich are far more conservative with cash than those who wantto prove they’re successful.
Living here in Bellevue I’m not sure I agree, but I do know that Nathan’s family isn’t like mine. They have money, lots of money. They also detest me, at least his mom and sister. Nathan’s dad seemed to have a soft spot for me but he died five years ago and his mother and sister have just grown closer, and colder.
It never crossed my mind that Nathan’s family would despise me. I’m an overachiever, a former born again, straight A student, and cheerleader. I wasn’t the most popular girl at Muir High (being born again had its drawbacks), but I was well liked enough to be put on the homecoming court and to be named ASB president.
I didn’t get the same respect at USC. UCLA students mocked us by saying USC stood for University of Spoiled Children, but the truth is, I was there on a full scholarship. A lot of us were on full scholarship, and I had a virtually free ride through a university that cost others over $30,000 a year in tuition alone.
Nathan should have never told his parents about my scholarship. It prejudiced them against me. They were sure I was after his money.
His mom said so to my face. “You do know under California state law, that whatever assets one partner has before marriage, remain with the partner after marriage.”
I’d simply stared at her and she’d added, as if clarifying her position. “If you marry Nathan, you’ll never have one penny of his trust fund. If you divorce him, you’ll have even
Even today, I’m just one step above
poor white trash in their eyes.
Nathan’s family is wrong though. My family wasn’t affluent,
but we weren’t white trash. At least, we weren’t until
my mother fell into the gutter but that
was her choice, not ours.
I step into slim pale gold Adrienne Vittadini slacks topped by a pale
gold Adrienne Vittadini knit top which has a long matching car coat.
Scraping my hair back from my face into a tight, low ponytail I study
There are times like now where I realize I’m pretty. I’m
grateful that God gave me this face. It’s what attracted Nathan
in the first place. Dark blonde hair.
Strong eyebrows. Angled cheekbones. Good mouth. Great body. But I work
it. I work it every day. Why?
I like being Taylor Young.
End of Excerpt.
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