Wednesday, June 9, 2010

House of Testosterone: One Mom's Survival in a Household of Males by Sharon O'Donnell

My mom picked this book out for me based on its title and its cover art; she figured as a girl who has way too many Barbie dolls and two boys I could appreciate what O'Donnell had to say. Whenever my sons saw this book on my nightstand they would laugh and tell me all about the boy who was dressed like Captain Underpants. The cover sold exactly what the book is: a light comedic memoir of one woman's attempt to live in a house of males; it seems like the perfect book for a mom of two boys. Having read it, I immediately passed it on to a friend who is the mom of three boys. There is enough truth and humor it what O'Donnell says that I can it will make the rounds amongst my mom friends.

An excerpt from the books describes the life of a mom of all boys:
  • you automatically wipe off the toilet seat before you sit down
  • your weekend schedule includes more total hours of little league sports than it does sleep
  • the lamp in your family room is held together by Super Glue in three places
  • you can carry on a conversation about athletic cup sizes with the college-aged guy at the sporting goods store with no embarrassment whatsoever

All moments to which I can either relate or imagine will exist in my future. Undeniably these bullet points make me smile. However...

O'Donnell needed a better editor.

The book has two fatal flaws which kept it sitting on my nightstand for three months rather than getting read in a night. First, O'Donnell makes gross over-generalizations about men which makes her sound like she is writing in the 1950s. Second, she mentions the same anecdotes two or three times in different sections of the book setting up her train of thought as disjointed and repetitive. Both of these issues, I think, could have been fixed had someone sat her down and made her rewrite more carefully before publishing what should be a fun look at parenting boys.

O'Donnell's book is a series of anecdotes about living with four sports-crazed, non-cooking, laundry-challenged men - her three sons and her husband. As a mom of boys, some of the stories made me smile - although nothing in particular is coming to mind which tells me they weren't all that memorable. I could relate to spending hours pouring of sports details and driving from scouts, to sports, to other sports. But O'Donnell's husband is a 1950s Neanderthal who somehow completely missed the woman's movement on the 1960s. O'Donnell cheerfully talks about he forgets anniversaries, complains about going to the theatre with his wife, and ignores her whenever a sporting event is on. I hope most women would not put up with his stereotypical antics and would not raise their sons to emulate this outdated model. I am sure the author exaggerated moments for the laughs but instead the stories end up making her look manipulated and lacking in a backbone.

By the end of the book I felt like I had read about her RV camping experiences and trips to Disney at least half a dozen times. I knew from her multiple mentions exactly which baseball team her family preferred. While the stories worked as individual essays, as a book she needed to remove redundancy and better organize her stories.

Finally, the last chapter of the book suddenly veers from humorous to sappy. "Moms hug your boys and tell them how much you love them before they grow up and leave you. Because leave you they will," seemed to be the tone of the last section. I would have preferred she stay light and humorous and end her book on a funny note rather than the shift to nostalgic.

House of Testosterone is a classic example of good marketing and a good cover to make up for a relatively weak book.

1 comment:

Sir said...

That was a strange but interesting story related to male testosterone that is mainly consider with men especially but also present in women.