The Smart One is a fascinating novel about the relationships between grown children and their parents. In this case, “grown children” is the right description as none of Weezy and Will Coffey’s adult offspring are really functioning well as adults when all three of them return to live at home for a while at the same time!
Well, Martha, the oldest at 30, has never actually moved out but the other two have and yet circumstances bring them back to the nest. Weezy is happy to have them so near but she has to wonder if she has failed as a mother and somehow damaged her children.
Martha is moody and has trouble functioning in any stressful situation. Her parents acknowledge that she always got the most attention growing up because she seemed to need it more. Claire is a year younger and has always seemed very stable but now her engagement has ended and she is deep in debt so she comes home to recover. Max, the youngest, is easygoing and sweet but now his girlfriend Cleo is pregnant and they are both just graduating college, so they come home to have the baby.
Every person in this story has their own issues and their own problems to figure out. Moving back home brings a return to high school behavior, especially among the sisters, fighting over the bathroom and everything else. Weezy can’t seem to stop herself from planning Claire’s wedding, even though she knows it’s not going to happen. Max and Cleo wander about in a permanent state of shock. And yet they all come together to support one another in one way or another.
The resolution of the book is a bit soft. There is no real feeling of satisfaction that something happened and some real solid victory can be claimed. One is left to wonder if there is a sequel in the works.
Nevertheless, these are characters who seem real and who, while none are entirely beguiling, are all interesting and the dynamic between them keeps the reader involved.
The book is recommended for people interested in family sagas. It may not be 100% satisfactory but it is still well worth reading.