Top critical review
on 15 May 2015
After reading Jennifer Weiner's 'All Fall Down', which I loved, I thought I'd try out another novel of hers. Sadly, I was underwhelmed by this one.
I think my main issue with the novel is that it doesn't know what it's trying to be, or that it's trying to be too many things at once- murder mystery, satire on American suburbia, motherhood manual, romance, there's so much going on and not necessarily in a good way. Characters kept getting mentioned and I had to stop and go, "Wait, who is this, again?" That's not to say the novel was all bad- Jennifer Weiner has a very entertaining manner of narration and she sets up little details in characters backstories that prove to be unusual and interesting- I especially liked Kate's opera-singer mother and her childhood. During the scenes that had real focus, they flowed very well.
However, another thing that bothered me about the book was our 'heroine' herself. Kate Klein, frumpy ex-journalist housewife, doesn't fit in with the other suburban mothers- which we're pretty much constantly reminded of throughout the novel. Now, it's not like I minded that as such, but Kate had a very condescending attitude towards the other housewives and seemed to both envy them and consider herself superior at the same time, so her isolation was harder to really care about. I feel like her attitude towards her dead neighbour, Kitty was incredibly blithe- the moments where Kate remembers an innocent woman was stabbed to death and starts feeling sad and/or guilty about it come off as inauthentic, like the author realised that Kate needed to show token sympathy or she'll look like a sociopath, and her best friend, Janie, was even worse. Janie was one of the worst things about this novel- she's like all of Kate's worst traits put into another person, and she basically serves as a human Deus Ex Machina whenever Kate can't plausibly get something by herself- there's one scene where Janie casually gets a JET, with an offhand, "I know people." Seriously? Both of them seem far more interested in getting a good story than the fact a woman was killed, and I found that every criticism other characters had of Kate (such as having no business pretending to be a detective) were accurate and well-deserved, yet the narrative sides with Kate, as it's all in first person.
When I got to the grand finale where we finally unwrap the mystery, I nearly laughed at loud at how absurd it was. I have to give the author credit for not going for the most obvious thing, but I failed to feel any real emotion impact from the characters or plot- it was all kind of faintly ridiculous, so I could read and enjoy to an extent, but I couldn't take any of it seriously and was honestly quite relieved when I finally got to the ending. So while I will try out other Jennifer Weiner's, I'd definitely miss out recommending this one.