Sleeping with Ward Cleaver

Sleeping with Ward Cleaver

by Jenny Gardiner

An audio file of this program is available in mp3 format; click to listen.

I’m Kim Alexander and this is Fiction Nation. The book is Sleeping with Ward Cleaver by Jenny Gardiner.

If the title makes you slightly uncomfortable, wait until you read the first chapter.

It’s quite an image, isn’t it? You’re right there in your 40s, couple of kids, house in the suburbs, and still hanging around with that one loser friend you can’t seem to unload, Young You. You know her — she was fun and free, and she wasn’t too tired to stay out all night. She wore uncomfortable shoes and too much eyeliner, she followed her heart and she knew every day was a wild, sensual adventure.

At least, that’s how you see Young You now. And then you look around and wonder if this is the life Young You would have wanted. And that’s usually the time, at least in fiction, that Young You’s great and true love sends Current You the fateful email. And then you’ve got a story.

Of course, one should never listen to Young You — she partied too much, went home with weirdoes and probably had an eating disorder. It’s kind of amazing she survived to become Current You. Young You will give you bad advice every single time. Stop returning her phone calls.

That’s what Claire Doolittle, the heroine of Sleeping with Ward Cleaver has to figure out. The Ward of the title is her husband Jack, who used to be so much fun. When did he turn into a black and white endless nightmare sitcom with no laugh track — in fact, with no laughs? The great and true love of Claire’s past gets in touch right on schedule and now Claire has some thinking to do. They say the guilty can’t believe anyone else (to paraphrase Bono) and no sooner does Claire start looking over the fence than she suspects — is sure — JUST KNOWS — that Jack is stepping out also. Does that mean Claire might be culpable in her marriage’s death spiral?  (Young You sez “Nuh-uh!”)

The author sets this book in Washington DC with a big side trip to Miami (my two home towns) so I was biased in her favor.

Jenny Gardiner got Sleeping with Ward Cleaver in print by winning a sort of American Idol for novelists, and she very much earned the prize. Her writing is a tasty mixture of humor and rage. I found the little extra bite made it even more delicious.

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