I didn’t look up any criticism on this book, but if I had to guess it’s probably cited from both sides as either: going too far or not going too far enough!
This book is primarily told through the voices of Eve Fletcher, a single mom in her forties, who in the opening chapter of the book drops her son off at his dorm on his first day ever of college. The day is fraught because he woke up extremely hung over and in the morning, his ex-girlfriend comes over and performs oral sex on him and in the throes of this he utters misogynistic “dirty talk”. We know this because Eve overhears all this and plans on confronting him on the drive to school, but he sleeps the whole time, and when they’re done unpacking, he quickly shuffles her out the door to hang out with his equally bro-ey roommate.
The novel also takes up the son’s voice who spends his first weeks in college talking shit with his roommate (mostly engaging in default dehumanist language about women), drinking, performing poorly in class, and flirting with becoming a better person by going to a siblings with autism support group because he has a crush on one of the women in the group.
As Eve looks at her now more empty household, she decides to join a community college class on gender and sexuality, gets very interesting in “MILF” and “Lesbian” porn searches on her phone, and begins to explore a more open sense of her own sexuality as she realizes she’s beholden to almost anyone now, outside of her job at a senior community center.
This is a mostly ok novel, and does really try to hammer out some middle-ground understandings of gender and sexuality politics, to better understand the ways in which misogynistic is often not only acute and direct acts but a toxic sludge through which everyone wades, and how even people who are aware of things like privilege, power dynamics, and other complex relationships with the world and others can easily and fluidly mess up in significant ways.
I do think it’s a pretty human reaction to a lot of what’s going on in the world, in which for the first time in a very long time, there’s not only an in-depth discussion happening on a lot of these topics and issues (because those conversations have kind of always been happening to a certain degree) but that those conversations are becoming more prevalent and wide-spread. I think there’s some selective memory about how wide-spread these conversations have been in more liberal circles, often too easily extrapolating their own relatively small circles for wider influence — a particular affliction us liberals generally have.
But also, the novel is not exactly great either, but would certainly make for a perfectly good book club conversation.