Juicy Novel About Park Slope Adultery Eagerly Anticipated by Booksellers
PARK SLOPE — Local booksellers are ordering extra copies of a juicy new novel detailing adultery and drug use among Park Slope parents, betting that "Peyton Place" for the P.S. 321 set will be a brisk seller — even in a neighborhood that prides itself on high-brow literary cred.
While Brooklyn is home to celebrated authors like Jonathan Lethem, Jonathan Safran Foer and now Martin Amis, the local lit star of the moment is Amy Sohn, the Park Slope writer who's said her new novel, "Motherland," in which frustrated moms and dads engage in affairs and other misbehavior, is a frank portrayal of modern American marriage.
Her inspiration? Sohn's Park Slope friends and neighbors.
"We've got a ton ordered," said Molly Auerbach, an employee at the Cobble Hill bookstore BookCourt. The store will probably have 35 copies of "Motherland" on hand when it's officially released on Aug. 14 — a "huge amount" for a new hardcover fiction book, Auerbach said. She expects the novel to move fast, especially after an in-store reading by Sohn scheduled for Sept. 5.
Other local booksellers said they're also stocking a motherlode of "Motherland."
Fort Greene's Greenlight Bookstore ordered 10 copies — a hefty number for a new hardcover — and the store's Greenlight Moms book group will co-host a reading on Sept. 10 with Sohn, employee Emily Russo said.
"People are very excited about it," she noted.
Park Slope's Community Bookstore on Seventh Avenue and Carroll Street, where local resident Sohn is a regular customer, has 15 copies headed to its shelves, said co-owner Stephanie Valdez. Usually the store will order two to five copies of a new hardcover book, she explained.
"People are always curious to read about their neighbors," Valdez said. "It's always fascinating to hear another take on your streets, your experience."
No customers have pre-ordered "Motherland," but Valdez said she expects demand to build if the novel gets reviewed in The New York Times or discussed on WNYC — the two outlets whose coverage usually drives readers into her store.
Local readers already know Sohn's work from the 2009 novel "Prospect Park West," about the sordid lives of Park Slope moms. A recent article by Sohn on The Awl about 40-ish moms who "regress" by "drugging, cheating, or going out too late" gave readers a taste of what to expect in "Motherland."
The question of whether Sohn's down-and-dirty take on Park Slope parenthood is true to life might not matter, pointed out BookCourt employee Auerbach.
"My mom read 'Prospect Park West' and she was like, 'This is insane! I don’t know any of these people,'" Auerbach said. "But it's totally juicy and captivating. You totally want to read it. I think everyone is curious about that stuff."
Deirdre O'Keeffe, moderator of the Greenlight Moms book group, said she doesn't know anyone like Sohn's characters, but that's not the point of the book.
"You wonder, are these people real? You wonder if she knows these people," she said. "[But] it's supposed to be fiction...It's just very entertaining."
One local bookstore — Babbo's Books in Windsor Terrace — isn't planning to stock a huge amount of "Motherland." The store, which is on Prospect Park West, carries a mix of used and new volumes. Owner Leonora Stein said she'll order a few copies of "Motherland," but she's not convinced it will be a surefire hit among her customers.
"A lot of people in Windsor Terrace moved to Windsor Terrace not only because they couldn't afford Park Slope anymore, but because they sort of were sick of the Park Slope attitude and the Park Slope way of life," Stein said.
"Cobble Hill and Park Slope are definitely more upper crusty, and more people there would enjoy seeing Park Slope skewered. Windsor Terrace is kind of divorced from that."
Amy Sohn will read from "Motherland" at BookCourt at 163 Court St. in Cobble Hill on Sept. 5 at 7 p.m. Sohn will appear at Fort Green's Greenlight Books on Sept. 10. Park Slope's Community Bookstore is hosting a Sept. 13 reading by Sohn at 7:30 p.m. at Congregation Beth Elohim, 274 Garfield Place.