Release Date: April 5th, 2011
More Info: Amazon
The Nanny Diaries meets The Wedding Planner in this smart, dishy novel from the author of Secret Lives of Husbands and Wives—featuring a woman who runs San Francisco’s premier baby planning company and the mommies-to-be who seek out her services.
Katie Johnson may make her living consulting with new moms on the latest greatest baby gadgets no parent should be without, or which mommy meet-ups are the most socially desirable, or whether melon truly is the new black, but the success of her marriage to her husband, Alex, depends on controlling her own urges toward motherhood.
He's adamant that they stay childless. Sure, Katie understands that he's upset over the fact that his out-of-town ex-wife rarely lets him see their ten-year-old son, Peter. But living vicariously through her anxious clients and her twin sisters' precocious children only makes Katie resent his stance more deeply.
While helping a new client—Seth Harris, a high tech entrepreneur who must raise Sadie, his newborn daughter, as a single parent after the tragic death of his wife in childbirth—maneuver the bittersweet journey from mourning husband and reticent father to loving dad, Katie’s own ideals about love, marriage, and motherhood are put to the test as she learns ones very important lesson about family: How we nurture is the true nature of love.
This review contains spoilers!
I have mixed feelings about this book. Parts of it I enjoyed. The book has humor yet tackles some weighty subjects - family, motherhood, health, the environment, decisions and their consequences, etc. It never gets preachy, and the characters are mostly likable. It's that latter part that is giving me problems, and where the spoilers come in. I couldn't think how to explain my dislike and my qualms without giving away some important plot lines.
Katie and Alex have been married for about 10 years. Alex was married once before and has a son, Peter, that he hasn't seen or had contact with in 10 years. He doesn't want another child, saying it would be too painful. The implication is that having a child with Katie would be an intolerably painful reminder of his son but also implied is his belief that he and Katie would break up and he would lose yet another child. Alex is mostly portrayed as unlikable - arrogant, condescending, selfish, etc. We are not meant to like him.
Katie is funny, sweet, naive, and desperate for a baby. This is where it gets tricky. Alex has alternated between flat out refusing to have a child and implying that maybe someday they could. Understandably, this waffling frustrates Katie. She decides to take matters into her own hands (no, not like THAT, climb out of the gutter :D) Whenever they have sex, Alex wears a condom; additionally Katie is on a birth control pill.
Without telling him or talking to him, she goes off the pill. She also sets out to seduce him at every opportunity, preferably getting him drunk first so he will forget about wearing a condom. Alex is seemingly oblivious to her sudden seemingly insatiable sexual appetite. When getting him drunk enough to forget about condoms doesn't work, she sabotages his condom supply, poking holes in them all. Meanwhile,she tells herself that when she gets pregnant he will be so excited and happy that he won't be angry. That's all we see of Katie considering the consequences of having a child that she knows her husband does not want. Ever. Her conscience seemingly takes a vacation. She feels little guilt and when, later in the story, she finds out about betrayals that both Alex and her parents have committed she gets all self-righteous and holier than thou. Her own moral failing and betrayal of Alex don't even cross her mind.
As obnoxious as Alex is made out to be, I couldn't help but feel sorry for him re Katie's behavior. He is no angel, but neither is Katie. Her desire for a baby consumes her, blinding her to her behavior and the possible consequences. Now, I'm not a mother and am not likely to become one but I know that for women who want to have a child biologically their own and can't for some reason, that it can sometimes become a consuming passion. It's a ton of heartbreak and something difficult for others to understand.
However, Brown can't seem to decide whether the novel is a serious look at motherhood, families and consumerism (more on that in a minute) or a light-hearted, humorous look at motherhood, families, and consumerism. The tone vacillates wildly. On the other hand, she has a sharp-eye for the way that people interact, what motherhood does to women (both good and bad) and gently pokes fun at the inherent materialism and consumerism involved in the concept of a baby-planner. Katie is exceedingly thorough in her research for her clients and initially, quite honest, and honestly, a bit prim. After she and Alex break up (what? I said this review had spoilers) she goes all uber-bitchy and throws her principles out the window. I was happy to see that reverse course a bit later on.
Overall, it's not a bad book. I wish Brown had gone more in-depth with the morals and consequences of Katie's obsession. At no time does Katie acknowledge her deceitful behavior but she sure doesn't hesitate to excoriate Alex or her parents for their betrayals or perceived betrayals. Parts of the story are predictable but overall, it was engaging, thought-provoking and interesting.
This paperback was received from the publisher for review.