Sunday, October 2, 2022

"The Real Mrs. Tobias"

Sally Koslow is the author of the novel The Real Mrs. Tobias, as well as the novels Another Side of Paradise; the international bestseller The Late, Lamented Molly Marx; The Widow Waltz; With Friends Like These; and Little Pink Slips. She is also the author of one work of nonfiction, Slouching Toward Adulthood: How to Let Go So Your Kids Can Grow Up. Her books have been published in a dozen countries.

Koslow applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Real Mrs. Tobias, and reported the following:
From page 69:
Birdie slipped into herself, focusing only on the lull of the truck’s warmth, as comfortable as an armful of clothes fresh from a dryer. The muffled whoosh of light traffic. The breathing of sleeping Alice. They headed south, past a showy cluster of high-rises, and soon turned into the familiar cobweb of lower Manhattan. Birdie’s eyes meet the Brooklyn Bridge, with its tinsel of cables and cords. A structural poem honoring the city.

She’d grown up hungry for history, for beauty. In her seven-stop-sign hometown, beyond its brick and fieldstone Carnegie library and a stalwart limestone post office, her world had been bland and sparsely landscaped, as if an artist had left his canvas unfinished before escaping. Yet despite Iowa’s openness, Birdie couldn’t find her place. This had drawn her all the more to New York, with its density, its layers, its promise. Grand monuments to forgotten heroes lit her imagination and sense of romance.

When she arrived, Birdie Peterson couldn’t wait to meet her future. It did not take her long to realize the Midwest was shadowing her as she tried to find her place. She saluted Mel, who though raised in the Twin Cities, seemed born for New York, where Birdie couldn’t keep pace…
The Real Mrs. Tobias explores the bonds and inner lives of three different women called “Mrs. Tobias:” Veronika, the family’s matriarch; Mel, Veronika’s daughter-in-law, and Birdie, Mel’s daughter-in-law. Page 69 offers insights into why the youngest wife, Birdie Peterson, born and raised on an Iowa farm near a small town, was eager to leave home for New York City. Once there, however, she becomes overwhelmed.

As a recent college graduate, Birdie wanted more than Iowa had to offer. She longed for a city steeped in romance that showcased exquisite architecture, diversity, history and more than anything else, would allow her dreams to come true. In Birdie’s case, her dream was to become a writer. Once in New York, however, she feels she can’t keep pace, “falling behind in a race she hadn’t realized she’d entered.” The city smothers her with options and crowds. Her mother-in-law, Mel, however—another Midwestern, albeit from a city—takes readily to New York. She leaves St. Paul, Minnesota, and never looks back, eventually practicing as a psychotherapist with a M.S.W. degree and relishing the city’s possibilities.

The third woman in the triangle, Veronika, doesn’t receive a cameo on Page 69. During the span of the novel, Veronika is 74, and the self-appointed keeper of the Tobias family nuclear codes. She’s a successful psychiatrist and psychoanalyst who maintains a haughty attitude toward her daughter-in-law Mel’s practice, given her less prestigious degree. Both Veronika and Mel believe that they show their love to their families by involving themselves in problem-solving, while those on the receiving end of this concern tend to interpret their behavior as meddling. The Real Mrs. Tobias kicks off when Mel’s son/Veronika’s grandson Micah—Birdie’s husband--is involved in a hit-and-run accident and leaves the scene of a possible crime. The family rallies at a command-performance dinner at the home of Veronika and her husband, David.

The novel takes place in Manhattan, where Veronika and Mel live; Brooklyn, Birdie and Micah’s home, and Iowa, where the reader meets Birdie’s family, who illustrate a less in-your-face manner of showing love. Among the Iowa characters is Joy-Ellen, Birdie’s forthright, loving grandmother, the kind of woman who keeps jumper cables in her pickup truck and wouldn’t think of buying a bakery dessert, since she prefers to bake her own and serve it with Cool Whip.

A family saga, The Real Mrs. Tobias delves into the tricky psychology of mother-in-law/daughter-in-law bonds as it also explores regional/ethnic differences in how we show family love. I’m happy to ad dthat “funny” and “witty” often come up often in the novel’s reviews.
Visit Sally Koslow's website and Facebook page.

My Book, The Movie: The Widow Waltz.

Coffee with a Canine: Sally Koslow and Percy.

--Marshal Zeringue