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Book Review: Super Mom Saves the World by Melanie Lynne Hauser

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Super Mom is back – issuing Super Time-Outs, dispensing apple juice and, of course, saving the world! 

Birdie’s (aka Super Mom) friend, the budding psychologist, has become “psychologist to the superheroes,” and can’t help but be concerned when Mr. Clean allegedly begins winking at Birdie.  Not only does he wink at her, but he takes her on a brief S&M fantasy (yes, I’m serious) en route to an absurd underworld where “new and improved” cleaning products are created, and the likes of the “Tidy Bowl Man” go to live out their retirements.  It hearkens to a 1970s' cleaning commercial, with an impeccably dressed woman who is borderline orgasmic at the sight of her freshly mopped floor.

But the visit has its purpose.  The ability to clean with the power of ten-thousand Swiffers might have been good enough to put the evil creators of video-games-with-junk-food-subliminal-messages out of business, but evidently it just wasn’t going to cut it against the new and improved villains who are endangering the children of Astro Park, Kansas.  That job called for Super Duper New and Improved Super Mom who can clean with the power of twenty-thousand Swiffers – naturally.   

Silliness abounds, but that’s not the greatest strength of the story.  The funny and the poignant moments of Birdie Lee’s non-superhero life are what really make the book worth reading.  Hauser seems to consider Birdie a “typical” middle-aged mom, but she’s stereotypical to an over-the-top degree. 

She’s a likeable character overall, and the reader can’t help but root for her; however, it’s hard to relate to a woman who’s goofy enough to blow her nose on her boyfriend’s sleeve.  It’s harder yet to relate to a woman who irons her kid’s baseball uniforms – with starch.  But perhaps some people find those things more funny and less disturbing than others.

The exploration of life with teenagers, and in particular the difficulty in creating blended families when teenagers are involved, is really interesting.  Birdie’s change from her son’s good pal to the last person he wants to talk to — ever — is painful to read.  These themes, along with her new romance, finally obtaining closure after her divorce and teenage steroid abuse (around which a Little League coach says, “Happiness has no place in youth sports, Super Mom”), all balance out the fantasy, and sometimes make you forget you’re reading about a woman who has become a human Swiffer.  Especially when Birdie explains how she’s come to associate marriage with toenail clippings.

But getting back to the comic book element… You know how mind boggling it is that Lois Lane doesn’t see that Superman is Clark Kent?  Likewise, you have to suspend your brain temporarily to accept that no one knows Birdie is Super Mom.  But that’s the point, I guess, and somehow it’s entertaining.   

Sometimes it can even seem satirical, for instance, when she’s passed out and no one thinks to remove her mask to see who she is.  And sometimes it seems metaphorical, like when she tests the intentions of her ex-husband based on her boyfriend’s admonishment, “you think a mask and a funny dress can hide someone you love?” 

Hauser does have a taste for the sweet, sappy and overly-optimistic ending, but then I suppose that’s only fitting for a superhero novel.

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About Staci Schoff