Thursday, March 30, 2006

Be Happy or I’ll Scream! By Sheri Lynch

Apparently, this Sheri Lynch person somehow opened my skull, perhaps while I was passed out after two weeks straight of taking care of five people suffering with the flu even though I was close to death myself, and peered into the labyrinth of my exhausted, fanciful, underappreciated, and always hopeful mind. She knows too much about me, this woman. She knows all about my sick suburban fantasies, my secret wishes for the “perfect” family, my fears, my horrible, horrible truths…Then she had the unmitigated gall to write a book about what she saw squirming about my fevered, delusional brain.

Think I’m kidding here? Okay then, explain to me how she knew that I often feel like I’m failing my own Hollywood-perfect image of the ideal wife and mother. How desperately I want to create my very own Cosby/Little House on the Prairie/Leave it to Beaver life, complete with pearls and non-existent toilets, children who smile -- a lot -- and never, ever whine or call me a “big poopy head.” How’d this lady know that I dream of a family life filled with special moments involving sweater-wearing husbands who always see the humor, sparkly-eyed children who are always the purveyors of the humor, and grand, heartwarming conclusions at the end of every perfect, educational day, replete with orchestra, in which the entire family floats off to bed with satisfyingly sore faces from having reveled in the humor all day long?

“Be Happy or I’ll Scream” (St. Martin’s Press), a memoir of sorts that chronicles a year in the life of Sheri Lynch and family as they embark on a not-so-magical journey in pursuit of the perfect family life, hits close to this home, my friends. Way too close. She wants to experience her fantasy family, wants to take vacations like the Brady Bunch did, serve an Alice-worthy breakfast every morning, teach her children well by attending cultural events, walking through museums, dine by candlelight with her husband and have meaningful heart-to heart conversations ala Mike and Carol as a rose petal-strewn bed awaits, along with Brad Pitt and a magnum of champagne. Okay, that last scenario is mine, but still…

Lynch, in her admittedly unattainable quest for Cosby-like glory, forces her husband, thirteen-year-old stepson, and two young daughters to brave the wilds of her imagination, endure the trials and tribulations of such horrors as traveling by plane to Chicago (God bless her, really), going to the (ulp!) State Fair, and turning their home into the Shrine Circus for the benefit of her birthday girl. Not great for the author at the time, but awesome for me, who has, on more than one occasion, gone the Shrine route myself. While reading her thoughts on Satanic petting zoo goats, I found myself nodding enthusiastically and smirking like a…Well, like a Satanic goat.

Did I say that this book hit close to home? What I meant to say was that this book hit me in the back of the head, repeatedly, like a pair of nunchucks. There’s this passage about going to a restaurant with all of the kids, see, and bodily fluids make an appearance, as do alien waiters who are not familiar with our Earthly serving etiquette, and there are staring, whispering people, and humiliation to go with those fries, and, and…STOP LOOKING INTO MY HEAD, SHERI LYNCH!

“Be Happy or I’ll Scream” is a fast-paced, funny read, to be sure, but I sensed a hint of sadness within, too. Though the author doesn’t reveal too much, it’s obvious why she yearns for some semblance of the perfect, happy T.V. family; she’d learned at much too young an age that flesh and blood parents can and will let you down, that they will hurt you, whether intentionally or not, and that the smiling, kind, loving faces with the warm, gentle voices on television are there, not only for entertainment, but for comfort, too.

The beauty of this book lies not in the sharp humor, tight writing, or “everywoman” appeal, but in its lesson to all of us parents, a lesson that is best interpreted individually. We’ll all get something different from this book depending on our life experiences, but there’s one message we all can identify with, and it is a simple yet brilliant one: Happiness is as close as your own backyard, dumbass.

I’m sure Claire Huxtable would approve.


At 9:29 AM, Blogger Granny said...

You really can write when you set your mind to it. (Not that you can't the rest of the time but this one is special.) It's great.

At 9:38 AM, Blogger Ms. Lori said...

Well, I'm so glad you enjoyed the review, Ann! Thanks! I think you would really like "Be Happy or I'll Scream!"

At 11:23 AM, Blogger Redneck Nerdboy! said...

She knows because it's what we all want. It's what society has trained us to believe is the norm, what we should have, that we all want to get married out of high school and have two and a half children and a pretty little house on Wisteria Lane with a white picket fence and a mailbox and a dog that lays on the front porch lazily all day so that we will be pacified enough to just pay taxes and be quiet.


(huff huff)

Sorry. Hadn't had my Zoloft yet. 'hem!

At 11:37 AM, Blogger David Niall Wilson said...


Trish and I struggle with that all the time. Neither of us had great parents (My mom is great, but she was overshadowed by the step-father-who-must-be-blamed). We both have failed marriages behind us...and we try VERY hard to make that CLEAVERESQUE environment for our kids...while still keeping bills paid, and sanity intact..

We fail...every time...but we DO come close enough for the effort to be noticed (lol).


At 12:08 PM, Blogger Jordan E. Rosenfeld said...

It does beg the question, Lori...when's your book gonna be written? Because I want to read it!


At 11:35 PM, Blogger leenie71689 said...

...actually, per Ms. Rosenfeld, I think you should do a talk show...your blog always has the most interesting subjects and so funny and insightful and well crafted! Thanks for the review and commentary...I will definatly have to read this book with a martini and valium...-E

At 5:17 AM, Blogger Alice said...

Great review.
Great you.
Great book, of course, too.

I'm not a mother, but I don't care; I want to read it.

I said "great you" already, right?
Y'know, 'cause you are.


At 8:44 AM, Blogger Alena said...

Great review.. I may have to check it out, it sounds pretty interesting. You know, one thing that really struck me in Sociology is that "the norm" is complete b.s.

As a society, we're very idealistic, so we have these golden ideas of what should be high up on a pedestal. It's kind of ironic because hardly anyone actually fits into these norms in the broad sense. Sure, we marry and have 2.5 kids and a dog and whatever, but when you scratch the surface, you'll be pleased to note that no one is "normal".

That's because "normal" doesn't exist. Only "average" exists. So if you're not "normal", you're not "average", and that's cool by me. Cause who wants to be average? :D

At 10:11 AM, Blogger Ms. Lori said...

Jas, that's it -- based on your recent comments here, you need a good cheering-up, so Jordan and I are coming 'round your place at eight o'clock tomorrow night and taking you to some honky-tonk for a white trash-y good time. Wear your overalls and shit-kickers, son. ;-)

Ah, David, the bane of modern parents...I'm positive you and Trish are doing marvelously, though. You both sure look marvelous!

Jordan, you darling thing, not before I read yours! Can't wait till I get my hands on dat thang! I'll need all the help I can get if I'm to write a book, as I'm primarily a short fiction writer. My brain (or is it my four kids?) prevents me from caring past five thousand words. ;-)

Leenie, thanks for your kind comments. Public speaking and I are not friends, unfortunately. Maybe if I pop a Valium...?

Alice, my favorite nutty, beautiful, talented English Rose: So where's my damn fish & chips, then? ;-)

Alena, excellent thoughts. Having children does weird things to even the most abnormal of souls, though. I should know. I'm not just outside of the box, I carry the freaking thing. It's a struggle to not be a part of the "norm," yet want desperately to give a "perfect," "normal" life to your kids.

And if I use quotation marks one more time today, I may just smash my fingers in the nearest door. :-0

At 2:58 PM, Blogger Jordan E. Rosenfeld said...

I love me a honky tonk! Woo-hoo!!!!!!!!!!!

Man. I am spending far too much time by myself these days...

Lori, can we begin development on my new time-space fabric bender? We need a few quantum physicists, a shaman, the nectar off the tip of a hummingbird's beak and possibly some plutonium...the goal is to bend space-time so that when I desperately need to meet you for coffee, I don't have to hop on a plane, just turn on the ole machine and we can meet in a quadrant of space time somewhere around Colorado :)

At 7:33 PM, Blogger . said...


At 7:03 PM, Anonymous Nick said...

If you liked her book, she also has another called "hello my name is mommy"
She also co-hosts a radio show every morning which is syndicated to numerous places. You can read her blogs and listen to the radio show online at


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