Sunday, June 26, 2011


S'Mother: The Story of a Man, His Mom, and the Thousands of Altogether Insane Letters She's Mailed to Him by Adam Chester (NY: Abrams Image, 2011). Reviewed from Kindle ARC and e-galley, both provided by publisher via

This hilarious memoir is kind of the mom version of $#*! My Dad Says, in that Adam Chester preserves the crazy letters his mother has sent him since he moved away to go to college. Chester's mom, Joan, happens to be a lot less vulgar than Halpern's dad, but just as funny! There are non sequiturs galore, and the Chester's book includes plenty of scans of the letters--in case you can't believe some of the stuff she's written, or just to showcase the wackiness of some of the letters. (As a side note, the scans were not readable on my Kindle!)

Chester lost his dad at age 8, and as he says in his Foreword, his mom should've come with a warning label about her crazy-making potential. This is true. It's easy to laugh at Joan's insane missives, but hard to imagine living with this deluge of madness. This memoir is largely restricted to her letters and their immediate context, but there must be some wacky stories, too, about Joan's interference in Adam's life when he was a kid, beyond the few completely hilarious tales provided in the foreword. After his dad died, Chester and his mother moved to Florida. Joan cut Adam off from all his paternal relatives, saying they hated her and were crazy. She also gave him dire warnings about her own relatives, like her mother and half-brother Michael (also deemed crazy). She starts writing letters to him after he moves to California for college. The topics range all over the place, but Joan has a few themes. One of them is death, specifically her death, and associated topics, like life insurance policies. She has some off-the-wall pet names for Adam, too, including poppy-seed, pussy cat, and dolly poo-poo.

One of my favorite non sequiturs appears in two points appended to a letter about miscellaneous financial and personal issues. "1. Don't drink rain-water. 2. There's a resistant form of gonorrhea going around--Use a condom" (p. 56). Yikes! Can you imagine getting letters like that? Chester claims he has hundreds. He stopped reading them, but saved them all.

Despite the crazy-making potential, Chester clearly loves his mother dearly, and she's very much a part of his life. She has to be considering that she lives only 20 minutes away from him, but even aside from that--she's still writing letters! Chester includes a few of his own musical career highlights, but keeps the focus on his mother's engaging, if wacko, letters. Highly recommended for adult audiences!

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