Sunday, June 14, 2009

Eye Candy

Whatever Makes You Happy

Whatever Makes You Happy, by William Sutcliffe
$11.70 at Amazon.com
ISBN: 1596914955
Those of you who are looking for a fun beach read that's light and funny while retaining some substance will enjoy this terrific new novel about mothers and their sons.
It's set in the beautiful and exciting city of London. Matt, Daniel, and Paul were boyhood friends. Now in their thirties and all still bachelors, they've lost touch with one another; but their mothers meet each month to talk about their children, as mothers will do. When Mother's Day passes without so much as a phone call or a card, the three women decide it's time to reestablish the bonds with their sons.
Carol's son Matt works for a men's magazine called Balls! He spends his nights visiting posh night clubs and bringing home girls who are half his age. No grandchildren on the way here. Meanwhile Gillian's son Daniel is on the mend from a heart-wrenching breakup. He lives in squallid isolation, feeling sorry for himself. She used to dream that he'd marry a nice jewish girl, but now absolutely any girl would be encouraging.
My favorite of the three is Helen. Her son Paul's door is answered by a handsome man in his early twenties:

He was wearing a tight, short T-shirt and a pair of jeans so low and loose-fitting that they appeared to be held up only by his genitals. A good five inches of midriff were on display, though it was more low-riff than midriff, since the revealed band of flesh started at the navel and descended to what was unmistakably a frond or two of pubic hair.
The clothes, even to a woman who was no expert on these matters, said very clearly, "I am gay." The way he stood said, "I am gay"; the hair said, "I am gay"; even the way he opened the door somehow succeeded in saying, "I am gay."
He was gay.

None of the three guys have any idea their mom's are coming to visit; and they've been out of touch for a while, so the moms don't have a clear picture when setting out of what they're grown-up son's lifestyles are like.
Naturally there's a bit of generational humor in all three cases, as "clueless" mom tries to reconnect with the modern British man. There's a terrific scene in which Helen follows her playboy son Matt to a launch party for a new aftershave. The two are ambushed by a paparazzi-style reporter, and awkward attempts are made to cover the fact that a major Balls! reporter goes to circuit parties with his mother. Hilarity ensues.
There's nothing complicated or challenging about Whatever Makes You Happy, it's simply a pleasant and diverting short novel. Parts of it were quite touching: since my own mother has passed away, it was interesting to contemplate how it might be if she came to visit me as it happened in the book. If your mother is living, it will make you want to call her and tell her you love her.
This book strikes the perfect balance of melodrama and clever British wit, and is sure to be the feel good hit of the summer.