The Ex-Debutante by Linda Frances Lee read by Susan Bennett

The smart daughter of a beautiful mother comes back to her “godforsaken sheep-happy hillbilly town” to handle her mother’s fourth or fifth divorce, and finds herself staging the annual Debutante Ball. “Don’t the pilgrims make skin cream?,” her mother asks her before mentioning how hard she has worked on maintaining her own natural beauty.
Miss Carlyle Ridgely, daughter of the Daughters of Texas, assembles 7 indelicate but moneyed 17 year olds, definitely not Ridgely Wainwright Cushing Jamison Ladley Ogden Harper-approved material.

I Still Dream About You by Fannie Flagg read by Fannie Flagg

A sweet, adorable, clever story about a beautiful and beautifully mannered ex Miss Alabama who has decided to jump in the river. Maggie has made a list of pros and cons and the pros have won out. For months, Maggie makes preparations for the day. She has donated all her clothes and jewelry to the local theatre, arranged to have flowers delivered to the graves of her parents for the next 25 years, written a letter  to her  cleaning lady with $500 and her gold watch, closed her bank account and given away the money to charities, cleaned and shined her leased car and her rented  apartment, and left her old tiara and baton to an old friend of her mothers who worked at the local department store and always called her up when there were sales. But in the cab on the way to the river where she’s hidden away weights and a raft, she is  commissioned to sell her favorite house in the world, Crestview. For the sake of the beautiful old house, and for the sake of the small happy firm to which she is devoted, Maggie feels she must put off the big day. She comes back home, whites out the date on the ‘To Whom It May Concern Letter’ she has left in her kitchen, and gets to work.

Promises To Keep by Jane Green read by Cassandra Campbell

There is something beautiful and more than beautiful about these women who enjoy their kitchens, who love  all the rooms of domesticity.   Jane gives us wives, book club ladies and hostesses, in Manhattan or Westchester, well groomed and well mannered and well off, obedient to husbands or mothers in law or schedules. Some are jolly and educated New Englanders, old and odd, wealthy and artsy and irrepressible.  The plot? It is as comforting as warm bread,  about women organizing people and things; themselves and each other. One woman most of all: Callie Perry, who has always been the happy center of many friendships.

Red Hook Road by Ayelet Waldman read by Kimberly Farr

Two mothers.

Iris, mother of the bride, is pushy, ambitious, Jewish, overpresent, and proud of her Red Hook genealogy, which can be traced back to the Battle of the Bulge. But Iris is not exactly a local. Yes, every summer Iris comes back to the oceanfront Queen Anne house, chats up the Red Hook Ladies, attending “every last bean supper and blueberry breakfast of the season,” where she tries to befriend the wives of lobstermen by feigning enthusiasm for rummage sales. But every Fall, Iris returns to New York, to art and to work, and will never, in the eyes of the locals, be anything but a “from away”.

Iris’ father, Mr Kimmelbroad, is indeed “from away”: a real gentleman,  a refugee violinist from Prague who still smells of polished wood, rosin, violets and 4711 Kolnisch Wasser.   The family are immigrants: bustling, displaced, well educated.

Jane, mother of the groom, is a local: by temperament, by income and by genealogy. Jane is strong from “clomping up and down stairs and hauling laundry and vacuum cleaners.” Jane has been taking care of  houses for the “from aways”  for a long long time, as had her mother before her. One of these houses is Iris’, which she cleans in the summers and tends all year long.

She [would get] the furnace and the propane tank filled, turn on the water,   take down the storm windows and put up the screens, mow the meadow and lawn, replace the water filter, have the piano tuned, and replenish staples like flour, sugar and the fancy teas ….

The story begins in the middle of the wedding, detailing the  profusions of fresh flowers, mismatched vases, white lace tablecloths, blues band,   bar, hanging lanterns, crab-cakes and lobster puffs and champagne of  the  reception at Grange Hall, where the mothers find out that the bride and groom are dead.  What becomes of the mothers and their other children is part of the story of the wedding, because the wedding  joins not only the bride and groom but the mothers; makes them, in Yiddish, Machatainisteh.

Curiosity Killed the Cat Sitter by Blaize Clement, performed by Julia Gibson

Another silly and lovable murder mystery written by an out of work real estate agent? Well, let’s see: Dixie Hemingway is a 32 year old ex-deputy living Sarasota, Florida, with her brother, the fireman, and his lover, Pablo, an undercover cop. She is a certified and insured and licensed Cat sitter. She is paid $20 to feed a cat and change the litter once a day; $60 for an over night visit. She also walks dogs and hugs them goodbye. She takes pets seriously and avoids humans. She is, like most Floridians, recovering from humans. Like fat, mad mothers of suicidal children, or overpampered party girls who have aged into overpampered divorcees. Dixie is different. More cat than human; both more curious and curiouser.

India Knight’s My Life on a Plate read by Jill Tanner

More than a little over the top, Clara Hutt is dropping her 2 boys off this morning wearing her pajama bottoms (again) and wondering (again) why all the other mothers can arrive at school with perfectly starched blouses and expertly applied makiage. Not now, Darling, I’m Paaaarking,” and again, “I AM PAAARKING,” and again “Stop it, Charlie, don’t make me want to break your legs.”

There are so many things wrong with this picture that the fact that Clara doesn’t speak to her children like the mummies in books is, well, funny. Indeed, Charlie is six and already has a “vast panoply of hideous, faintly disturbing, terms of abuse.” “You tiresome retard” he says to his brother. Or to some hapless toddler on a play date: “God! You exasperating creature! What is it? Talk for God’s sake!! God. God. Bloody God!” She is, of course, to blame she thinks, while she watches Naomi The Perfect Mother and Crossing Guard doing her pelvic floor exercises. Hup two three four and hoooooolddd.

I think Clara is darling. In perfectly bad faith for the nought generation, Clara has all the elements of a mad Greek family member. But she is English, and thanks to Jill Tanner’s drawn out vowels and enthusiastic syntax, we are happy to relocate our tragic flaws.

Clara’s mother is, on the other hand, global.

Long Time No See:: Re-hearing Susan Isaacs read by Cristine Mcmurdo-Wallis

Who in God’s name could murder a woman who puts doilies on the bottom of guest-room wastepaper baskets? In this decade of the Mother, of Mommihood, of stretchy, skin tight maternity dresses, of preternaturally calm Nannies, Long Time No See is perhaps the precursor of a series of mysteries dedicated to killable mothers.