Parents Behaving Badly

A Novel

Parents Behaving Badly

Now in paperback: Scott Gummer’s debut novel is a smart suburban satire that paints an unforgettable portrait of fathers who coach like Patton, mothers who drink like fish, and the children caught in the middle.

An uproarious and poignant satire of American suburbia and youth sports gone wild

When Ben and Jili Holden must move from Manhattan with their three children back to their small hometown of Palace Valley, California, they are forced to reconcile the parents they’ve become with the dreams they once had. After reluctantly stepping up to coach his son’s Little League team, Ben is challenged to finally come to terms with the long shadow of his father, a legendary high school baseball coach who is beloved by generations of players, yet largely a stranger to Ben.

Ben and Jili struggle to connect with their technology-addicted children and grapple with issues of marital fidelity—both at home and in the hotbed of sexual tension that is the Little League park. Among an unforgettable cast are Del, a tyrannical coach; Liza, Ben’s unrequited high school crush; and Cyn, the sultry thong-wearing team mom with the serpent tattoo. Parents Behaving Badly offers a field-level view of the insanity of youth sports today and roasts the lunatic parents and overzealous coaches who all too often ruin it for the kids.
  • Touchstone | 
  • 224 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781451609189 | 
  • April 2012
List Price $15.99
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Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for Parents Behaving Badly includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Scott Gummer. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.


When Ben Holden and his family move from New York City back to his hometown in rural California, he reenters a world of his former classmates, aging parents, quirky siblings, and the agony and ecstasy of Little League baseball, where the parents are often more intense and into the game than the kids. The first novel by journalist and author Scott Gummer, Parents Behaving Badly is a satirical, often hilarious portrait of suburban life and modern parenting. Gummer expertly weaves together provocative and timely storylines, ultimately illuminating what it means to be a true leader, be it in the form of a role model, coach, or parent. 

Questions and Topics for Discussion 

  1. Early in the story Ben and his aging father, Coach, share a tender and, for Ben, curious moment when his father gently pats Ben’s hand. (p. 18) How does this brief moment, and Ben’s reaction to it, shed light on his relationship with his father?
  2. As a high school freshman Ben made th
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About the Author

Scott Gummer
Photograph by Ella Gummer

Scott Gummer

Scott Gummer is the author of two books, The Seventh at St. Andrews and Homer Kelley's Golfing Machine, and has contributed to over forty magazines including Vanity Fair, Sports Illustrated, Fortune, Travel + Leisure and more. He lives with his wife and four children in the Sonoma wine country, where he has coached youth sports at every level from peewee boys to high school varsity girls, and where he serves on the little league Board of Directors.