‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ in Brooklyn? Amy Sohn’s ‘Motherland’
These days erotica is about as inescapable as your favorite pair of studded leather handcuffs. Bookstores can hardly keep books like "Fifty Shades of Grey," and "Bared to You," on the shelves. So, really, it should come as no surprise that even a novel ostensibly about parenthood and aging - and called "Motherland," no less - is more of a platform for exploring modern sexuality in a real context.
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Written by Brooklyn-native Amy Sohn, "Motherland" is the sequel to Prospect Park West, Amy Sohn's hyperrealist novel set in Park Slope, Brooklyn. This time around Sohn pans the everything-is-connected model for gold through interwoven stories of disenchanted Park Slope parents trying to navigate life after children.
Like her first book, "Prospect Park West," "Motherland" takes place over the course of summer, but this time the story begins many miles away from Brooklyn, on Cape Cod. The central protagonist, Rebecca Rose, and her family are sharing a visually stunning, but actually damp and depressing, $5,000-a-week modernist 'cottage' with their friends, CC and Danny Gottlieb. They've come to 'summer' with two other families, the Shanahans and Marco and Todd, a gay couple with a young son.
"One of the things that's weird about this neighborhood is there's very little interpersonal confession between mothers," Said Sohn. "I don't hear people admitting to problems very often. I mean, they'll make comments like, 'Oh my God, I'm going to kill my husband,' and they'll say it lightly, but you can tell by the tone of voice, the look, that they're pissed."
Although, she admits, "That may be because I'm a writer, and everyone's afraid of me."
Sohn, 38, began her career as a dating columnist for New York magazine and the New York Press, then changed gears when she settled down with her husband, writing instead about New York's wealthy, coupled and childed. (The couple has a 7-year-old daughter.)
"I always joked that my novel 'Prospect Park West' would be the one that would force me to move," she says of her 2009 best seller, which satirized the area's desperate hipster housewives. "And now I have this new book. And I'm still here!"
As reviews filter in "Motherland," the response has been mostly positive.
"Sohn's eye for detail and her knack for parody keeps it funny and a hair's breadth this side of believable."
"If Motherland had a subtitle, it might be The Unbearable Lightness of Being a Bourgeois Brooklynite. This sequel to 2009's enjoyably snarky haute- parenthood chronicle Prospect Park West features many of the same privileged, procreating New Yorkers - none of whom seem any better off since we last left them. They're still kvetching in the borough of beautiful brownstones, $1,200 status strollers, and, apparently, nonstop marital discord (though they do have enough graphic, mostly adulterous sex to fill several Penthouse Forums). Motherland's intertwined narratives move along at a satisfyingly soapy clip, but its characters' perpetual misery - and Sohn's penchant for strenuously current, celebrity-saturated cultural references - eventually curdles like so much sour breast milk."
"Motherland" by Amy Sohn is out now.