Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Smart One (Book Review)

Wednesday, April 3, 2013 4:42 PM with No comments
The Smart One 
The Smart One

Author: Jennifer Close
Publisher: Knopf
Number of Pages: 340
Release date: April 2, 2013

My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I adored Jennifer Close's debut Girls in White Dresses. It's just a perfect little bon-bon of a book that follows a handful of girls in that uncertain age after college, but before actual adulthood (much like the show Girls actually). There are a couple of characters who one could maybe consider the "main characters", but honestly, all of the characters kind of blend together to become an archetype of "girl in her early 20s," with their stories being told as stories, not as a continuous narrative. If you haven't read it, I highly recommend picking it up.

The Smart One is definitely a different entity. It is a true novel with fleshed-out characters. The story follows the lives of four women in a family. The mother, two daughters, and girlfriend of the son: Weezy (the mom), Martha (the eldest daughter), Claire (middle child), and Cleo (girlfriend of youngest child, Max). Each of the "children" are dealing with a life-changing event and Weezy is finding her house full once again.

Martha, 30, has lived with her parents her whole life. Once a nurse, the book opens with her managing a J.Crew, a job she soon leaves to become a caretaker for a wealthy man while deciding if she wants to try to get back into nursing. Martha is the epitome of stunted growth. Not quite socially incompetent, but definitely lacking. She has never had a boyfriend or a best friend. She dwells, and thrives, on disasters and bad news. Babied by her parents her whole life she finds it hard to even think about moving away from the nest.

Claire, 29, begins the book in NYC, living in the expensive Manhattan apartment she can no longer afford after her engagement fell through and her ex-fiance moved out. She has spent all of her savings keeping the place for the past couple of months, but know has to face the fact that she can no longer afford to live in the city. She decides to return to her parent's home in order to regroup and pay off the debt that is hovering above her. Back in Philadelphia, she finds a temporary job and starts seeing a boy from her high school who is also back living at home after a failed engagement. Her life is "on hold" and she finds herself reverting back into her teenage self.

Cleo, 21, is a senior in college. She and Max (Claire and Martha's brother) have recently started to live together, although she worries that they are too young. She was raised by a single mother who, while present, was always a bit cold, choosing to focus her energy on her career more than being a mother. Cleo is gorgeous and smart and ready for the rest of her life. Her "issue" comes late enough in the book that I don't want to spoil it.

Weezy, um, the mom, I don't know how old she is, was so wrapped up in wedding planning for Claire that she didn't want to stop after the wedding was called off. Under the guise that it was simply postponed, she finds herself still meeting with the florist and shopping for caterers. She is both happy and a little alarmed to have both daughters under her roof again. She knows that she coddles Martha, but firmly believes that it is because she needs to.

I enjoyed The Smart One, but I didn't love it the same way I loved the author's previous offering. The story of grown children back in their parent's house at the same time has been done before, but I still enjoyed it. I liked all of the characters, but wasn't particularly drawn to any of them. What I do love, is Jennifer Close's writing, which is so simple and effortless. I can't really explain what it is about her style, but I'm just drawn to it. I will definitely be on the look out for her next one.

*I received an ARC of this novel from the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.*


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