Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2016-06-27
- Reviewer: Staff
In her funny and sensitive fourth novel, Hemmings (The Descendants) explores the intersection of personhood and parenthood. Mele Bart is a single mother in San Francisco navigating the world of potty-training specialists, elite preschools, playdate etiquette, and nanny envy. To top it all off, she is contemplating attending the wedding of the father of her child, the man who left her when she told him she was pregnant. After multiple failed attempts at seeming like another perfect privileged mother, Mele finds refuge among the other misfit parents in her daughter’s playgroup—Annie, Barrett, Georgia, and Henry. With their encouragement, she decides to revisit her dream of becoming an author and enters a cookbook-writing contest sponsored by the San Francisco Mother’s Club. Interspersing recipes inspired by her own life with recipes inspired by the other parents in her group, all of whom are dealing with feelings of inadequacy, Mele devises a cookbook that is equal parts introspection and sharp observation. Mele’s candor, her friends’ stories, and some hilariously cringe-worthy interjections from the Mother’s Club online message board come together in a layered narrative that is both ruthless and empathetic, satirical and sincere. Agent: David Forrer, Inkwell Management. (Aug.)
A single parent surviving San Francisco
Single mom Mele is raising her 2-year-old daughter in San Francisco. She has a pack of funny, irreverent friends and a flexible blogging gig that allows her to hang out with said friends and their kids.
The only hiccup in her otherwise great life? The father of her child is marrying someone else: a gorgeous woman who makes cheese in Petaluma.
“When he first told me about her I envisioned a country woman milking goats, her jeans pulled up to her nipples, but she isn’t like that at all,” says Mele. “She has a perfect ponytail, big teeth, and high cheekbones—that alien look of models. She knows how to sail, make cheese, ride horses, and she’s marrying the man I thought I’d be with for the rest of my life.”
Hemmings, who first made her mark with 2007’s The Descendants, is a superbly confident and inventive writer. Much of Mele’s story is told through her application for a cookbook-writing contest, a surprisingly effective construct through which she tells stories about her friends and comes up with recipes inspired by their tales. The fact that the contest is sponsored by the San Francisco Mothers’ Club also allows for plenty of humor in Mele’s no-holds-barred responses.
Does your husband cook? reads one question. How do you divvy up the responsibilities?
“Way to rub it in my face, you sick, kitten-heel wearing bitches,” Mele replies.
When her baby daddy invites her to his wedding, Mele asks her friend Henry, a stay-at-home dad, to be her date. Henry’s marriage is failing, and Mele suspects her innocent invitation has the potential to turn into something much more. But is she ready to move on from the one she thought was The One?
How to Party with an Infant is hilarious. Hemmings is brutally honest about the pain and pleasure of parenting in the 21st century, when analyzing other parents’ choices—from schools to snacks—has become a favorite pastime. She also reinforces the universal truth that non-judgmental, imperfect, supportive and slightly boozy friends are the best antidote to the parenting wars.