BOOK REVIEW: CARPOOL DIEM
Who knew that the world of being a soccer mom could be filled with so much ambition, backstabbing, and jockeying for power? It's enough to make Annie Fleming, the former corporate executive struggling to free-lance until she has another job, be reminded of the cut-throat everyday world of office politics she's left behind when an obnoxious co-worker gets her fired. She carries her gung-ho no-holds-barred attitude over to her family's personal lives, as well, making daily To Do lists for them, and desiring her twelve-year-old daughter, Charlotte, to be on the Super A+ soccer team, the Power, rather than on the B team, the Asteroids, which Winslow West, the Power's arrogant and obnoxious manager, has put her on. Carpool Diem, by Nancy Star, depicts with a light hearted vigor and often LOL comedic touch, Annie's struggles to bond with her daughter and mold her in her own ambitious image.
Finding herself between jobs after she loses the Proxo account due to nepotism, Annie becomes a temporary stay-at-home mother and takes stock in her home and family. It's far from perfect, but she believes if she lends her business savvy to it, and uses her famous knack for creating lists, she can whip it into shape in no time. Through the course of the novel, however, she learns that this is not always the best way to handle a situation or people, especially if it involves one's own family members. Charlotte is an awesome soccer player, and does end up moving to the elite Super A+ Power team, but her transformation into an Annie clone is somewhat soul destroying and doesn't bring either her or her mom the happiness that Annie wishes for Charlotte. Nancy Star's characterizations are marvelous, and a couple of her minor characters practically steal the show. Winslow West is one of them. The arrogant snotty attitude he displays reminded me of the character the comedian Fred Willard plays in the cable movie staple, Best of Show,where he is a commentator for a dog show. If Carpool Diem is ever made into a movie, I think Willard would be perfect to play Winslow West. When he schedules a game for Halloween, and his wife Vicki objects, West tells her:
"How can you expect me to support a holiday that completely revolves around the consumption of sugar? I have spent years teaching the girls about proper nutrition and fitness. Bloody Halloween could undo everything!"
Another minor scene-stealing character is the disgruntled soccer dad and plumber working for Winslow West, Roy Fern, who wants his daughter Rose moved up from the Asteroids to the Power team. West, though, dreads talking with Roy, or any parent who has any sort of complaints to make about how he run things. He thinks most parents are like Roy are basically "Selfish, slow, dim, dolts." Fern, who reminded me a lot of Bill Murray's groundskeeper character in Caddyshack, decides to get back at West by sabotaging the soccer field in various ways, ranging from scattering dog poop about and digging holes in it to painting over parts of the sidelines. Winslow West, ever quick on the draw and clever, suspects that the holes might have been the results of badgers. He deduces that: "Badgers are devious creatures. Very clever. Smarter than you think."
Carpool Diem is not really about carpooling at all, but about the attempts of a mother who correlates success in business to success in being a parent to re-establishing a motherly bond with her daughter. It's also a humorous take on the ambitious world of teenaged girls' soccer teams that reminded me of the overweening ambition that exists in even dog shows, as portrayed in the movie, Best of Show. When people stop at nothing to achieve so-called success, they sometimes lose much more important things, like the natural bonds they should share with friends and family members. This is perhaps what could be called the "moral" of Carpool Diem, a well-written, humorous book that should please anyone who enjoys light-hearted fare with a message relevant to us all.
REVIEWED BY DOUGLAS R. COBB
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