Publication Date: September 9, 2014
People I Want to Punch in the Throat: Competitive Crafters, Drop-Off Despots, and Other Suburban Scourges is an autobiographical tale of marriage, children and the people who irritate us in our daily lives from a woman with no filter who looks on the practical side of life.
I received a copy of People I Want to Punch in the Throat: Competitive Crafters, Drop-Off Despots, and Other Suburban Scourges by Jen Mann from Random House via Netgalley in exchange for my review.
In the 1950s Jean Kerr spoke for the housewives of her generation. “Please Don’t Eat the Daisies” was a best-selling humorous look at a woman living the high life in New York City transplanted in the suburbs and raising four children. Jen Mann in People I Want to Punch in the Throat: Competitive Crafters, Drop-Off Despots, and Other Suburban Scourges speaks to women of Generation X in an engaging and entertaining way. Mann, like Kerr, is the fun friend who will tell every ridiculous moment without regard to how crazy she sounds in pursuit of a really good story.
The style of People I Want to Punch in the Throat: Competitive Crafters, Drop-Off Despots, and Other Suburban Scourges is light and conversational. Mann is sitting at a table with her reader and telling us her life story. This style, which has worked exceptionally well for humorists like Erma Bombeck, best conveys Mann’s incredulity to best effect at the circumstances that befall her. In one especially funny chapter, Mann shares with the reader that she had doubts on her wedding day about marrying her beloved Ebenezer. Mann then gives us a simply hilarious anecdote of her wedding day. Mann forgets the ring-bearer pillow and when she calls her groom to find the pillow he cannot spare the time as he’s making his mother a sandwich. “It’s a big day for her too” (Location 372—Kindle Edition). The mother of the bride then ventures to the happy couple’s house to find the pillow and makes the dream of an heirloom, carried by their future daughter, a reality.
Much of the story chronicles the lives of Jen, Ebenezer (“Hubs”) and their children and the unfortunate folks that cross their path. Few people, given time with the couple on the page in real life, would stick around for long but on the page they’re entertaining and just wonderfully funny. Ebenezer is a straight shooter. In one scene after the birth of their son, Gomer, the couple encounters that couple that bask in the glory that is their children. Their son insists that he is four and while the parents prod him to tell her true age, Ebenezer leans down and says “You’re not four… . You’re a liar.” (Location 767—Kindle Edition). As with much of the book this is one of those shock moments where the reader is sure that they shouldn’t be laughing, but the staging of the moment and the frankness of it combined with Mann’s writing style left this reader with a coffee coming out of the nose moment. Its horrible and perfect, and the train wreck moment in a place where adults rarely go.
As much as People I Want to Punch in the Throat: Competitive Crafters, Drop-Off Despots, and Other Suburban Scourges is the story of a generation it’s also classic observational humor that can be enjoyed by people of all ages. Rather than a laundry list of irritants, Mann gives us a story of daily life and the ridiculous people we encounter—in some cases, with whom we live. Life is rife with irritants and Mann shows us how to find the fun and embodies the best advice I ever received. A pre-wedding counselor told me “There are days you’ll hate your spouse and that’s perfectly normal.” Mann buoys that advice and shows us the fun of looking back at irritants.
Mann’s writing style is light and fun. Her subject is relatable to a generation, but one that people of any age can enjoy. If a conversational style of writing isn’t your thing, this won’t be your favorite book but if you love simply really well written observational humor, you will adore People I Want to Punch in the Throat: Competitive Crafters, Drop-Off Despots, and Other Suburban Scourges by Jen Mann.