Caroline Kurchowski is eight years old when she realizes that her mother, as she puts it, is crazy. This is how the first line in the novel, “The Cost of Living”, goes and so begins a mother-and-daughter relationship that is both heart warming and poignant. Her mother Jean Kurochowski was raised by disapproving parents, was married to a man who left her because she is fat, and raises her only daughter alone. She is an eccentric with a compulsive hoarding behavior. Embarrassed by her mother’s eccentricity from an early age, Catherine manages to grow up. She forms a friendship with Beth and finds her first love in Greg. She lives in a house where the refrigerator is stacked with food almost as old as she is, the basement is full of give-away, and there is a high pile of wood chips in the driveway. During her college years, her mother is diagnosed with cancer and the story takes a poignant turn.
There are only a few authors who manage to write so finely that their works can be considered as both funny and sad and M. L. Pressman is able to do that. “The Cost of Living” is a fantastic story that is so humorous and witty that the reader may not realize that it is also an attack on the nature of our society today. The author’s style of writing is fluid, witty and wise. A mother-daughter relationship has been a recurring theme in many novels but only a few turn out excellently as this one. Easy to read and thought provoking, it is a great roller coaster ride following the lives of Caroline and Jean Kurchowski. The story is told in the first person perspective, with Caroline as the narrator, and I am amazed at her change of persona from an eight year old to a grown up woman. It makes me feel as if I am literally watching her as she grows up. It is certainly one of my favorite reads this year and I highly recommend this book to everyone.