Laurie Frankel's debut novel, "The Atlas of Love" is a small and wonderful slice of life set in Seattle. Three best friends from graduate school - where they're both teaching and working on their PH.Ds - form a "family" when one of the women becomes pregnant and does not marry the father. Sharing mothering duties, house duties, and teaching duties, the three women - Jill, the baby's mother, and Janie and Katie - make up a house/family unit that also includes parents and grandparents of the women as well as friends and old/new boyfriends.
But sharing a child and a home with all the attendant responsibilities is not as easy as the young women have hoped. Quarrels over territory and love - the baby and other's - have caused riffs that may not be easily repaired.
Frankel does a very good job at the nuances of what makes a family a "family". In the course of a year, the "family" changes shape, with additions and deletions as time and deaths make their mark.
Frankel writes a lot like Elinor Lipman. Both have strong primary characters in their writing, but neither neglect the supplementary characters that many other novelists do. Maybe its their use of dialog in their writing but both are excellent writers who tell their "story" with the use of strong characters.
I'm giving "Atlas" four stars because I think Frankel will "grow" with her next novel. I'm definitely looking forward to it. She's going to be a literary star some day.