Archive for June, 2015

“Mother on Fire” and “The Madwoman in the Volvo”, by Sandra Tsing Loh – A Review

June 8, 2015

If you’re a devotee of obscure films and comics, you may have heard of the Mystery Men – a group of second-string blue-collar superheroes with minor powers.  They don’t have the abilities of a Superman, or the resources of an Iron Man, but they do their best.

Sandra Tsing Loh is the Mystery Woman of NPR slice-of-life observers.  She could not fill a Williamsburg theater like Ira Glass, and lacks the comfortable lifestyle of a David Sedaris, but she works hard and does her best.  Does her lack of status have anything to do with falling into an Uncanny Valley of ethnicity – not ethnic enough to be the next Amy Tan, but just “other” enough to be distracting?  But perhaps that veers into Angry Negro territory.

In the first book, “Mother on Fire”, Sandra Tsing Loh figures out school for her kids in L.A. (public or private?  magnet or bilingual?  ordinarily expensive or crippingly expensive?) with little help from her husband.  Her D-list status opens some doors for her by association with real stars like Ira Glass, but then she lacks the resources to be able to follow through.  By the second, “The Madwoman in the Volvo”, she has had an affair, left the husband, and is navigating menopause and caring for an aging father (lovably eccentric, or abusive and criminal, depending on your point of view).  Both books have a number of instances where the author is foolish, crazy, or selfish – it’s not clear if she herself realizes them all.

Should you buy these books?  Yes.  The author seems like a nice enough person (unless you’re her ex-husband), and it sounds like she could use the money.

Will you enjoy these books?  Have you heard of Sandra Tsing Loh and do you like her?  If so, then yes.  If not, then you will be bored or annoyed (although you might find some common ground if you find Barbara Ehrenreich to be unbearably sanctimonious).

Sandra Tsing Loh has written six books and will doubtless keep plugging away to finance her retirement and kids’ college.  She is currently encouraging women to move into science and technology, rather than get sidetracked into an arts career like she did.