Super Mom Saves the World
by Melanie Lynn Hauser
Published by New American Library
300 pages, 2007
The Hero’s (Swiffer) Journey
Reviewed by Mary Ward Menke
Is there a mother in the world who hasn’t at one time or another wished she had super powers? Author Melanie Lynne Hauser has taken that wishful thinking and run with it. In Confessions of a Super Mom, she created Birdie Lee, the divorced mom of a teenage son and daughter. Birdie survives a “Horrible Swiffer Accident” that turns her into a super hero with palms like sponges and fingers filled with cleaning fluid. Fast forward six months to Super Mom Saves the World, and we find Birdie, now a card-carrying member of the Justice League of America, still adjusting to her new life.
As if having been bestowed with super cleaning powers and the ability to sense when her kids are in danger weren’t enough of a challenge, Birdie is now hearing voices and lusting after a flirtatious Mr. Clean, all while consumed by the questionable goings-on at a new Little League stadium in Astro Park; her son’s first love and her daughter’s pink hair. To further complicate matters, her ex-husband announces he’s divorcing his second wife and strongly hints he wants Birdie back. She, however, is newly engaged to Carl Sayers, a scientist with a teenage son of his own and is determined to blend their families, despite the fact that the two boys can’t stand each other. Did I forget to mention a corrupt politician and an angry school janitor?
Through everything, Birdie is supported by her best friend, Carrie Peters, a fellow grocery store cashier with a secret identity of her own -- therapist to super heroes. (“Although the JLA, not wanting the rest of the world to know that their superheroes have some pretty disturbing psychological issues, asked Carrie to keep her day job as a cover.”)
After an altercation with the Phantom of the Bullpen, Birdie is transported by Mr. Clean to an underground facility known as New Improved University. Martha Stewart is the main donor, but she’s at Betty Crocker Clinic, “for those with an addiction to household cleansers.”
At New Improved U, Birdie learns that during the altercation, she had been “attacked by a rogue Swiffer WetJet” (aka her “Second Horrible Swiffer Accident”). Apparently the ability to clean with the power of ten thousand Swiffers (the result of her first Horrible Swiffer Accident) is no longer sufficient to deal with the villains of Astro Park. Her abilities have now been upgraded to the “power of 20,000 Swiffers.”
Although Super Mom Saves the World’s satire of the super hero genre is silly but entertaining, the book’s strengths lie in the real world. Birdie’s relationships with her children, her fiancé and his son, her ex-husband and her friends are complex and all-too-real. The combination of humor and pathos works well in making the characters believable and likable.
While I’m more than willing to suspend belief long enough to believe in Super Mom, I found two things about the book troubling: First, the references to branded cleaning products (Swiffer®, Mr. Clean®, Scrubbing Bubbles®) seems a little over-the-top. And isn’t there a requirement to use the registered trademark symbol when referencing brand names -- at least the first time?
Second, for someone who’s obsessed with clean, Birdie has a nasty habit of blowing her nose on her boyfriend’s shirt sleeves. Carl’s a scientist, for crying out loud; he doesn’t need Martha Stewart to tell him that snot isn’t a Good Thing. | July 2007
Mary Ward Menke is a contributing editor to January Magazine and the owner of WordAbilities, LLC, providing writing and editing services to businesses and individuals. Her work has been published in The Toastmaster, Dog Fancy and Science of Mind magazines, in the Suburban Journals (a weekly St. Louis community newspaper) and on STLtoday.com.