It is surprising that Mother’s Helper by Maureen Freely was first published in 1979. It could have been published this year. The subject matter is still relevant today; perhaps even more so. A would-be patriarch, Bob Pyle, struggles to maintain control over his family. His wife, Kay is a rather pretentious woman who claims to be a feminist. She makes outrageous demands on her husband, and seems to think that she can succeed at anything she tries. Although she does not seem to try very hard, Kay thinks she is super successful and hard working.
The thing she seems to try least at is raising her children. She tries to cover this up by telling herself that she is a liberal woman who gives her children the freedom to learn and develop. It does not seem to occur to her that at some level or another, boundaries might be necessary in order to instil likeable attributes and help provide social skills which could help her children to fit in, maybe even be happy. But what does Kay know?
This is a woman who tells her eldest daughter Sarah that she was an ‘accident’. Kay thinks that it is okay to be in an open relationship, flaunting it in front of her children as well as the adults around her. There is no subject that is out of bounds with or around her children.
Into this scenario walks the unsuspecting Laura, a young college student desperate for family. She struggles to understand how the Pyle household functions. No matter how much she tries, the reader can see how Laura’s attempts at making a difference will end. Sometimes, even Laura is drawn into the behaviours around her.
This book seems to have had some bad press. It could be argued that the people who have given it negative reviews have not understood the crux of it. This is not meant to be a pleasant tale. It is a tragi-comic view into the looking glass at modern times, modern families, and modern values.