Nobody writes about suburbia quite like Tom Perrotta, author of The Leftovers, Election, and Little Children. So we were thrilled to learn of his next novel, Mrs. Fletcher, which follows 46-year-old divorcee Eve Fletcher as she attempts to fill her life without her only son, who has just left for college. Prompted by a strange anonymous text she receives reading “U R my MILF!” Eve grows obsessed with a porn website focused on middle-aged women like herself. At the same time, her son Brendan finds his new college environment not as open to his alpha-male characteristics as he expected. Eve and Brendan’s personal crises simmer throughout fall, and both will finally culminate on one night in November.
EW is thrilled to reveal both Mrs. Fletcher’s cover above and an exclusive excerpt in advance of the book’s August 1 publication, below.
Excerpt from Mrs. Fletcher by Tom Perrotta
The Obligatory Emoticon
It was a long drive and Eve cried most of the way home, because the big day hadn’t gone the way she’d hoped, not that big days ever did. Birthdays, holidays, weddings, graduations, funerals—they were all too loaded with expectations, and the important people in her life rarely acted the way they were supposed to. Most of them didn’t even seem to be working from the same script as she was, though maybe that said more about the important people in her life than it did about big days in general.
Take today: all she’d wanted, from the moment she opened her eyes in the morning, was a chance to let Brendan know what was in her heart, to express all the love that had been building up over the summer, swelling to the point where she sometimes thought her chest would explode. It just seemed really important to say it out loud before he left, to share all the gratitude and pride she felt, not just for the wonderful person he was right now, but for the sweet little boy he’d been, and the strong and decent man he would one day become. And she wanted to reassure him, too, to make it clear that she would be starting a new life just the same as he was, and that it would be a great adventure for both of them.
Don’t worry about me, she wanted to tell him. You just study hard and have fun. I’ll take care of myself…
But that conversation never happened. Brendan had overslept—he’d been out late, partying with his buddies—and when he finally dragged himself out of bed, he was useless, too hungover to help with the last-minute packing or the loading of the van. It was just so irresponsible—leaving her, with her bad back, to lug his boxes and suitcases down the stairs in the sticky August heat, sweating through her good shirt while he sat in his boxers at the kitchen table, struggling with the child-proof cap on a bottle of ibuprofen—but she managed to keep her irritation in check. She didn’t want to spoil their last morning together with petty nagging, even if he deserved it. Going out on a sour note would have been a disservice to both of them.
When she was finished, she took a few pictures of the van with the back hatch open, the cargo area stuffed with luggage and plastic containers, a rolled-up rug and a lacrosse stick, an Xbox console and an oscillating fan, a mini-fridge and a milk crate full of emergency food, plus a jumbo bag of Cool Ranch Doritos, because they were his favorite. She uploaded the least blurry photo to Facebook, along with a status update that read, Off to college! So happy for my amazing son, Brendan!!! Then she inserted the obligatory emoticon and launched her message into space, so her 221 friends would understand how she was feeling, and could let her know that they liked it.
It took a couple of tries to shut the hatch—the damn rug was in the way—but she finally got it closed and that was that. She lingered for a moment, thinking of other road trips, vacations they’d taken when Brendan was little, the three of them heading to Cape Cod to stay with Ted’s parents, and that one time camping in the Berkshires when it rained and rained—the earth turning liquid beneath their tent—and they had to pack it in and find a motel in the middle of the night. She thought she might cry right then—it was going to happen sooner or later—but before she could get herself started, Becca zoomed up the driveway on her bicycle, moving so swiftly and silently it felt like a sneak attack.
“Oh!” Eve flung up her arms in self-defense, though she was in no danger of being run over. “You scared me!”
Becca shot her a withering what-planet-are-you-from look as she dismounted, but the contempt came and went so quickly it was almost like it hadn’t been there at all.
“Good morning, Mrs. Fletcher.”
Eve bristled at the greeting. She’d told Becca numerous times that she preferred to be addressed by her first name, but the girl insisted on calling her Mrs. Fletcher, as if she were still married.
“Good morning, Becca. Shouldn’t you be wearing a helmet?”
Becca released the bike—it balanced on its own for a moment before toppling dreamily onto the grass—and patted her hair with both hands, making sure everything was where it was supposed to be, which of course it was.
“Helmets are gross, Mrs. Fletcher.”
Eve hadn’t seen Becca for a few weeks, and she suddenly realized how pleasant the interlude had been, and how she’d failed to appreciate it, the same way you fail to appreciate the absence of a stomachache until the cramps return. Becca was so petite and adorable, so totally put together—that cute little turquoise romper, those immaculate white sneakers, all that makeup, way too much for a teenager riding her bike on a summer morning. And she wasn’t even sweating!
“Well, then.” Eve smiled nervously, acutely conscious of her own body, the doughy pallor of her flesh, the dampness spreading from her armpits. “Something I can do for you?”
Becca shot her that frosty look again, letting her know that she’d used up her quota of stupid questions for the day.
“Is he inside?”
“I’m sorry, honey.” Eve nodded toward the van. “We’re just about to leave.”
“No worries.” Becca was already moving toward the house. “I just need a minute.”
Eve could have stopped her from going in—she totally had the right—but she didn’t feel like playing the role of bitchy, disapproving mom, not today. What was the point? Her mom days were over. And as much as she disliked Becca, Eve couldn’t help feeling sorry for her, at least a little. It couldn’t have been easy being Brendan’s girlfriend, and it must have hurt pretty badly to get dumped by him just weeks before he left for college, while she was marooned in high school for another year. He’d apparently done the dirty work by text and refused to talk to her afterward, just crumpled up the relationship and tossed it in the trash, a tactic he’d learned from his father. Eve could understand all too well Becca’s need for one last conversation, that vain hope for closure.
Good luck with that.
Excerpted from MRS. FLETCHER by Tom Perrotta. Copyright © 2017 by Tom Perrotta. Reprinted with permission of Scribner, a Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.