The Alphabet Year
Kathryn H. Kidd
Hatrack River Publications , 1991.
It's been a while since I've read this. As I recall, it was about the mother in a family who had moved to Salt Lake from "the mission field" and who felt inadequate when she compared herself to a neighbor who seemed to have everything under control.
This neighbor had two sons, one who seemed the most well-behaved boy in the world, and the other who was much more "typical" and always getting into scrapes.
The point-of-view character arranges to have an exchange play group (where the mothers take turns watching each others' children for a few hours so their children can have organized and supervised play with each other -- I guess that's how it works, I never did it with my kids . . . ).
The title refers to the attempt on the part of the point-of-view character to make the experience educational by having an activity each time the children were with her that related to each letter of the alphabet -- you can go through the alphabet twice in a year if you have the kids once a week.
She has various adventures and perceives herself as terribly unsuccessful because she can't measure up to the neighbor with the two boys. When she finally learns how the neighbor actually deals with her boys, the story raises an issue that I have trouble with. Maybe it would be worth discussing here.
The supposedly perfect son is actually pathologically amoral, and his mother copes by listening to customized subliminal tapes that tell her over and over again that she really does love this boy even if he is pathological.
I don't know if I dare believe in a pathologically amoral child (though I have met some that I've wondered about). I don't know, this is probably a doctrinal issue more than it is a believable literary character issue, but where does the Atonement come into the idea of such a child?
Kidd never, that I recall, answers that question in the book -- I don't even recall her bringing it up -- and it added a relatively horrific note to what I had thought was supposed to be a more or less humorous story. But maybe I don't have the right sense of humor.
She writes well and I could sympathize with her point-of-view character, so the rest of the book was worth reading. There was just that one twinge for me.