The term “Internet celebrity” means something very different today than it did two decades ago. Before the advent of social media, the designation was reserved for a few brave bloggers who laid their deepest secrets bare for all the world to see. Writer and blogger Kerry Clare remembers those early days of online notoriety; her first novel is a kind of paean to all those disappeared stars.
Sarah Lundy’s life is fairly ordinary from the outside: she’s a stay-at-home mom who writes once in a while for the local newspaper and takes care of her two daughters while her husband works. Her alter ego, though, is Mitzi Bytes, a blogger with a racy history and large following. Sarah has managed to keep her online persona a secret to this point. But she begins to receive emails from a mysterious figure calling herself “Jane Q,” who berates her for using the lives of others as fodder for her blog and threatens to reveal her true identity to the world.
Various female archetypes appear within the novel’s pages. There is the uptight mother trying to keep everything together; the fierce single mom; the perpetually unattached woman whom everyone is secretly jealous of; the tenacious head of the PTA; the capable nanny; the recently arrived stepmom. And then there is Sarah, who sees all and writes it all down.
Sarah narrates the tale, and it is through her voice that the character comes to life. She pretends everything is okay, but it is clear she is trying to fool herself. She is in an existential crisis about how she has chosen to spend her days, and when she is threatened with having to shut Mitzi down, she is forced to confront the thing that frightens her most: her own life.
The novel’s cover makes it seem like a light read – and it is fun. Sarah constantly goads the reader to chuckle at her reactions to whatever life throws her way. She muddles through with humour and kindness, augmented by her loud mouth and narcissistic tendencies. At the same time, though, Clare makes us rethink what it means to be a mother, daughter, husband, and friend, and places the book directly within the current conversation about parenting in the 21st century.
This is a book about the way gender roles and the Internet have changed. It also asks a pressing question that has come to the fore in recent years: does everything need to be shared?