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A wryly comic memoir that examines the pillars of New England WASP culture—class, history, family, money, envy, perfection, and, of course, real estate—through the lens of mothers and daughters. At eighteen, Sarah Payne Stuart fled her mother and all the other disapproving mothers of her too perfect hometown of Concord, Massachusetts, only to return years later when she had children of her own. Whether to defy the previous generation or finally earn their approval and enter their ranks, she hurled herself into upper-crust domesticity full throttle. In the twenty years Stuart spent back in her hometown—in a series of ever more magnificent houses in ever grander neighborhoods—she was forced to connect with the cultural tradition of guilt and flawed parenting of a long legacy of local, literary women from Emerson’s wife, to Hawthorne’s, to the most famous and imposing of them all, Louisa May Alcott’s iconic, guilt-tripping Marmee.

About the Author

Sarah Payne Stuart

Sarah Payne Stuart grew up in Concord MA, under the influence of the writings of Louisa May Alcott. For a brief, terrifying period, she called her mother "Marmee" and emptied the dishwasher without being asked. At age 18, Stuart fled Concord for Harvard, where she avoided classes and became one of the first women editors of the Lampoon. Upon graduation, she took a job working against prisoners, to the horror of her liberal friends, as a paralegal for the Massachusetts Department of Correction (when she accepted the job she thought it has something to do with correcting forms) . She got married at age 25 to Charlie Stuart, and became an advertising copywriter, writing ads like "Get a Free Gift with a Two Hundred Dollar Deposit!" After a year of marriage, Stuart and her husband bought the house of her dreams in Boston, only to split up two days later. On the positive side, she never had to finish the thank-you notes. The next year, Charlie returned, and they moved to New York where Stuart had two sons one year apart, and wrote her first novel, which was a whole lot easier than getting those snowsuits on. When pregnant with her third child, Stuart moved her family back to Concord "so the kids can have swimming lessons at Walden Pond!" though the truth was she had hated swimming lessons at Walden Pond as a child almost as much as she had hated hearing about Henry David Thoreau. While bringing up her kids, Stuart moved too many times, wrote not enough books, and worked for her husband writing a number of documentary films (airing on HBO, Lifetime, TLC) , including My Mother's Murder, nominated for a Cable Ace writing award. She is the author most recently of PERFECTLY MISERABLE: Guilt, God and Real Estate in a Small Town (memoir) , A New York Times Editors' Choice. Two excerpts appeared in the New Yorker ("Pilgrim's Progress: God and Real Estate in New England"; "Pilgrim Mothers: The Ladies Four O'Clock Club") . She has written several other books including MY FIRST COUSIN, ONCE REMOVED: Money, Madness and the Family of Robert Lowell (nonfiction) , a New York Time Notable Book; two humor books--HOW TO REGAIN YOUR VIRGINITY and HOME COLLEGING: Because You have no Choice (both co-authored with Patricia Marx) ; MEN IN TROUBLE (a novel) ; THE YEAR ROGER WASN'T WELL ( a novel) . Her writing has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times Book Review ("Bobby was a Difficult Child," essay; book reviews) , Town and Country (Manners and Misdemeanors, August 2014 issue) . She lives in Maine, or Manhattan, she's not sure.

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