Karen Gorback characterizes Freshman Mom as a “debut novel,” yet she is no rookie author. The 270-page novel shows readers why it is as complicated to do right by those you love as it is to make the most of yourself. That said, the tensions between the main character’s urge for self development and the obstacles posed by real life makes clear that a dream deferred does not have to become lost ambition.
Meredith Lieberman, the main character, a 39-year-old divorcee’, is the template for a contemporary single mom. She is fiercely loyal to responsibilities for her children, loves her mother, and asks questions about what it means to love herself. Those who know little of the realities of single parenthood, or about women in general, will learn from this novel.
This is a story for our time. The numbers of single mothers in college has doubled since 2000, and continues to creep higher and higher. By 2012, more than 11 percent of undergraduate women were single parents, according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. The great benefit is the tale’s insight into the mind and spirit of many such women. For them education is aimed at the improvement of career potential, and that can mean a lot. IWPR states that 4 in 10 women in two-year colleges are likely to dropout because of dependent care obligations.
Gorback writes about those realities with a clarity and pace that will rivet readers’ attention. The main weakness is that the plot is too much like what is seen on the Hallmark Channel. The lesser players in this tale are not as developed as they might be. Also, Meredith’s conflict with her friends and family are not as edgy as might appear in nonfiction stories of this type.
Overall, I can’t wait for Gorback’s next novel. Like most authors she will find her stride as she continues to tell stories that speak a truth she knows too well.