cover image Parents Behaving Badly

Parents Behaving Badly

Scott Gummer, Touchstone, $23 (224p) ISBN 978-1-4516-0917-2

In Gummer's humorous if subdued debut, a suburban Little League serves as the nexus for thwarted ambitions, competitive intrigues, marital rifts, and, as an afterthought, kids who might be interested in baseball. Ben Holden, recently returned to his California hometown from New York, becomes a reluctant coach, grappling with his late father's legacy as a revered high school athletic mentor and the ambivalence that comes with middle-aged parenting and a mature, mostly stable marriage. He's appealing and accessible, as are many of Gummer's cast of family members, friends and neighbors. There's the deftly rendered list of things Ben's sister prizes: "their McMansion in the tony, new and also curiously named CascadeForest development of Sacramento, her Lexus hybrid and his Prius, their Pottery Barn furnishings, her Tory Burch Shoes and matching handbags." But too often, these descriptions substitute for character development and depth, and while the slew of subplots—the most dramatic of which involves low-grade sexual tension between Ben and a sexy ultrasound technician—are entertaining, they can't mask the fact that the novel fails to really deliver on the promise of its title. (Apr.)