Received: Received a copy from Random House of Canada in exchange for an honest reviewRelease Date: April 2, 2013
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With her best-selling debut, Girls in White Dresses (An “irresistible, pitch-perfect first novel” —Marie Claire), Jennifer Close captured friendship in those what-on-earth-am-I-going-to-do-with-my-life years of early adulthood. Now, with her sparkling new novel of parenthood and sibling rivalry, Close turns her gimlet eye to the only thing messier than friendship: family.
Weezy Coffey’s parents had always told her she was the smart one, while her sister was the pretty one. “Maureen will marry well,” their mother said, but instead it was Weezy who married well, to a kind man and good father. Weezy often wonders if she did this on purpose—thwarting expectations just to prove her parents wrong.
But now that Weezy’s own children are adults, they haven’t exactly been meeting her expectations either. Her oldest child, Martha, is thirty and living in her childhood bedroom after a spectacular career flameout. Martha now works at J.Crew, folding pants with whales embroidered on them and complaining bitterly about it. Weezy’s middle child, Claire, has broken up with her fiancé, canceled her wedding, and locked herself in her New York apartment—leaving Weezy to deal with the caterer and florist. And her youngest, Max, is dating a college classmate named Cleo, a girl so beautiful and confident she wears her swimsuit to family dinner, leaving other members of the Coffey household blushing and stammering into their plates.
As the Coffey children’s various missteps drive them back to their childhood home, Weezy suddenly finds her empty nest crowded and her children in full-scale regression. Martha is moping like a teenager, Claire is stumbling home drunk in the wee hours, and Max and Cleo are skulking around the basement, guarding a secret of their own. With radiant style and a generous spirit, The Smart One is a story about the ways in which we never really grow up, and the place where we return when things go drastically awry: home.
So within a week I have read two books that are focused on family relationships, and while they are similar in some ways they are both very different. I love books that deal with family relationships and this one is at the height of those books. When she finds herself in financial trouble, Claire finds herself having to move back home, with her parents and her older sister, who is already 30. From there, Jennifer uses this book to detail the struggles of moving back home after being on your own, and being an adult.
Jennifer writes the book from the perspective of three children of different ages, all coming home, and needing to deal with different issues. I enjoyed the different perspectives, yet at the same time I was confused by why some of the characters had their own perspectives. A part of me thinks it was to show the difference in family relationships based on age and circumstances. It was interesting to see how everyone dealt with their issues and how Jennifer Close writes about moving home, I think she hit a lot of great points, with parents always watching you closely and wondering about every little thing you do.
What really stood out in this book for me was the reality of some of the situations that Jennifer brings out. She really shows the difficulty of living on your own in a large city (in this case New York) and not making much money, the economy these days makes this so difficult (I went through this myself a little while ago and almost moved home myself). The characters are all so different when they are forced to move back home, it seems like they revert back to a younger version because that is how they are treated.
I had some issues getting through the book because of the many different perspectives, I felt like it was a bit jumpy at times. After awhile I could understand the different perspectives as we see each child coming to terms with moving back home for a different reason and how they each deal with their issues and learn to grow from the experience.
I came to really enjoy this book and the characters, even though each of them had their problems and were difficult to like for many reasons. The way Jennifer Close writes them, as a reader you come to understand why they are that way, and in the end I really enjoyed following a year in their lives. I really think that if you stick with this book it is a fun read in the end. I do wish there was a bit more of a resolution with some things in the end, but at the same time, this is a book about life and how things aren't always tied up with a smile.
This book won't be for everyone, but I do suggest giving it a chance. It's a book about real people with problems that many of us face today. This is a book that is all about family and what everyone will do to help others through their problems. That is what really brought this book up in my opinion.