Little Earthquakes by Jennifer Weiner

November 10, 2010

little earthquakes Plot summary (with possible spoilers): Becky, Kelly, and Ayinde are three very different women who meet in a prenatal yoga class. Ayinde is the beautiful wife of NBA superstar Richard Towne, and has just moved to the Philadelphia area after her husband was traded to the 76ers. As a result, she doesn’t have any friends yet and is feeling a bit lonely and isolated. She goes into labor during the very first class that Becky and Kelly also attend, and since the two other women happened to be headed to their cars at the same time, they offer to drive her to the hospital. The friendship blossoms from after little Julian is born.

Becky is a professional chef and part-owner of a trendy downtown restaurant named Mas. Her husband Andrew is a successful doctor. Her life seems to be pretty good — except for the fact that Andrew is a total mama’s boy who cannot say no to the overly demanding and imposing Mimi. Becky has her hands full trying to make Mimi respect boundaries, particularly when it comes to new daughter Ava.

Kelly is a go-getter who puts on a happy face even when things in her life aren’t as picture-perfect as she would have people believe. Things start going downhill when husband Steve gets laid off six weeks before little Oliver is due. This puts a tremendous strain on their finances and causes Kelly to worry incessantly about being able to pay the bills or find affordable health insurance for the family. To make matters worse, Steve doesn’t seem to be in any hurry to get a new job. He lounges around the house all day, doesn’t shave or shower, doesn’t help with any household chores, and bugs Kelly simply by being there.

Added into the mix is another young woman named Lia. Lia is a Hollywood actress who has had minor roles in a few popular programs and movies. She fled SoCal after the devastating loss of her 10-week-old baby Caleb to SIDS and has been bumming about her hometown of Philly ever since. She first stayed with her mother, but their strained relationship forced her to get her own place. Then, by virtue of stalking Becky at a park, she becomes friends with these new mothers, which allows her to begin her healing process and reconcile with husband Sam.

Chapters in the book alternate focus on each of these women. Sometimes the spotlight is on their personal travails with motherhood and their husbands; sometimes it encompasses the group as a whole. Through it all, the women become true friends and serve as a great support system for each other — all thanks to a chance meeting at a yoga class for pregnant women!

Liked:

  • I really enjoyed the parts of the book that focused on the women’s friendship. These sections were by far the most interesting because of the way the women played off each other. I wish the whole thing had been about the friendship alone.
  • Lia ended up being my favorite character. At first, it was annoying how she was introduced in bits and pieces, especially since it didn’t take a genius to figure out that she had recently lost a baby so Weiner wasn’t actually building any suspense by withholding that information. But she ended up being the most dynamic of the women, and the one I most wanted to see happy as I turned the final page.

Disliked:

  • I thought most of the problems with mother-in-laws and husbands was very boring. For instance, Steve, Richard, and Mimi simply weren’t developed enough for me to care about how they interacted with the main characters. Steve was a stereotype of a lazy slob husband and sounded like he was lifted right out of a sitcom. Richard was a stereotype of a professional athlete getting caught with a groupie. Mimi was an outright caricature. I hated it whenever these folks took up space on the pages and had to force myself to keep reading through their b.s.
  • I found it hard to believe that Becky couldn’t stand up to her mother-in-law. She was portrayed as this very strong-willed, independent person, yet Mimi caused all these problems for her? And she let Andrew behave like a sniveling wimp without demanding that he take a stand? Yeah, right.
  • I didn’t like Ayinde’s characterization at all. She was hardly a part of the group and barely had anything to say when all the women was together. It was as though she didn’t really belong. Was this intentional on Weiner’s part? I don’t think so, but I could be wrong.
  • Was it necessary to make Lia a creepy stalker in order to introduce her to the group? That was just weird. Why not have her hang around Mas or Kelly’s coffee shop so often that the women noticed her that way? I don’t know… I didn’t buy Becky being so welcoming to a potential stalker, especially after first coming face to face with her after midnight while out alone with Ava.

Rating:

Little Earthquakes by Jennifer Weiner currently has a 4.5 star average rating on Amazon.com, which I find to be completely puzzling. Parts of this book were indeed excellent, but I didn’t think it worked as a whole. Was it a realistic picture of motherhood? Not for me. I’m a mother and didn’t go through any of the same things these women did. But that wasn’t the book’s only failing. The one-dimensional secondary characters and the way Weiner devoted so many pages to them doomed the novel for me. I give it 2 stars out of 5.

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