Truth may be stranger than fiction, but this week fiction out-numbers nonfiction by about three to one...
by Mona Simpson
In Mona Simpson’s first novel since since 2000’s Off Keck Road, the author of Anywhere But Here (1986), The Lost Father (1992), and A Regular Guy (1996), offers a refreshing and reflective familial narrative and an incisive comparision of side-by-side parenting skills, where neither reality, in manifestations alternately satirical and touching, sees the strained extremes of Mary Poppins flights of fancy or maternal excess.
Claire, a classical music composer and new mother, has moved to L.A. so that her husband Paul can become TV sit-com writer. However, once they’ve settled down, Paul finds himself working long hours hatching up yuks, which leaves bringing up baby almost exclusively up to Claire. But as much as Claire loves to dote on her adorable bundle of joy, the diaper changes and cranky wailings are not terribly conducive to the odes to joy she herself is attempting to create. With no time for herself or her career, Claire hires a nanny to help with William. Enter Lola, a 52-year old mother of five who is working in the U.S. to pay for her own children’s higher education back in the Philippines.
Lola's accentuation of the positive in the negative domestic scene soon attracts the attention of other parents, who try to entice her away — but Lola is a keeper for Claire. The two narrate in alternating chapters; fragile and privileged Claire’s blistering wit tears into the affectation that surrounds her social life, while Lola is more sincere and tender in her intentions to help people, though she also elicits hoots with her commentary and keen observations about her fish-out-of-water workaday world that makes her more wise, in many ways, than her often glib employer.