Friday, April 22, 2011

S’Mother: The Story of a Man, His Mom, and the Thousands of Altogether Insane Letters She’s Mailed Him

By Adam Chester

New York, Abrams, 2011

178 pages Memoir

Just in time for Mother’s Day, Adam Chester has written a funny-odd ode to his mother in S’Mother: The Story of a Man, His Mom, and the Thousands of Altogether Insane Letters She’s Mailed Him. I’m really not sure which genre this little book fits into—humor? Memoir? Psychology?

Chester collected the letters his mother sent him over the years, beginning with his arrival at USC as a freshman, when to her credit, she remained in Miami. He continued collecting them through the years, until now, when he says that she still continues to write him weekly even though she only lives 20 minutes away.

This book is a compendium of some of the funnier and some of the more pathetic examples of the 1000s of letters he has received over the years. The book is almost as schizoid in its format as it is in its content, although it is kind of “cute.” Letters are included as they are written and then translated into text so they can be deciphered. The style seems to suit the content. Here is my favorite:



Do me a favor—

Please don’t eat sushi!

Thank you—



I also loved the letter that was a quarter taped to a piece of legal paper with nothing else.

Chester says: “I had no choice but to accept my costarring role in my life’s popular, non-televised reality show, Adam’s Mom, as best I could.” The letters show a lot of love, a lot of worry, generosity, and a slightly manic desire to be part of her son’s life. Chester seems to acknowledge that love and be touched by that even as he fights against it.

I was reminded of the letter I received from my own mother, who, even though she was the mother of four of which I was the oldest, still found the time to write me every week I was away at college or in graduate school. I was planning on driving home from Boston at Christmastime with my new boyfriend Lee, and my mother wrote to tell me that if the weather got bad on the way home, we were to stop and get two motel rooms–one for each of us—and Dad would reimburse me for the cost when I got home. That was Lee’s introduction to my mother.

Chester’s mother seems to know when she goes over the line, but she just can’t help herself. I understand that. I have to catch myself all the time, and sometimes I cross the line despite my best intentions. The mother of adult children walks on a taut tight wire, and one can very easily fall off. My son told me the other day that I was becoming a caricature of myself. And while I understand the truth in what he was saying, I didn’t take it as a compliment. In this book, Chester has made a caricature of his mother. And while she understands the truth in it, I can’t believe that she is flattered by it. I hope that he is squirreling away the proceeds from the book to pay for his mother’s long term care.

I am not sure who the audience is for this book. One reviewer suggested that a child of a single mother with no siblings plays a unique role. I believe I understand that comment. Mothering, under those circumstances can easily become smothering. Perhaps this would be the best audience. I think my oldest son might find it really funny, since he bore the brunt of my single parenting. I don’t think my sister-in-law, who has one child and tends to be a smotherer, would find it funny at all. She works in a book store. I’ll ask her opinion.

I received a galley proof of this book from the publisher. From now on, I’m keeping my mouth shut!

Here is Adam Chester’s blog of letters from his mom and incidents involving his mom. There is also a video of Kevin Bacon singing. (Adam Chester is in the music business.)

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