"Give me books, French wine, fruit, fine weather, and a little music played out of doors by somebody I do not know." - John Keats

"You're not allowed to say anything about books because they're books and books are, you know, God." - Nick Hornby

Friday, September 16, 2016

Review #44: How to Party with an Infant, by Kaui Hart Hemmings

Mele Bart thought that when she told her boyfriend Bobby that she was pregnant, he'd want to get married. It turns out that he did, but to someone else. Two years later, and the wedding is about to take place, and Bobby wants Ellie to be the flower girl. Mele doesn't want Ellie to go without her, so she declares that she's attending as well, and bringing a date. The only trouble is she doesn't exactly have a date, so she makes one up, confident that her friend Henry will help her out. Her friends - Annie, Barrett, Georgia, and, yes, Henry, parents she met through the San Francisco Mommy Club - aren't so sure she should go, but they appear to be willing and supportive of whatever decision she makes.

As the wedding date looms, Mele needs something to take her mind off the upcoming nuptials, and decides to enter the Mommy Club's cookbook contest, answering the contest's questionnaire with stories of her friends and their children. Mele pulls no punches, and she airs everyone's dirty laundry, including her own. The question "does your husband cook?" is answered with a biting essay about how she's pretty sure he does, but for someone else, because he's someone else's husband. Mele lists what food she'd make for each friend, each story, but Hemmings misses a big opportunity to include a recipe or two.

If there's a downfall to this book, it's that I think that Hemmings wasn't quite sure who she wanted Mele to be. In some respects, I could completely identify with Mele, who was intimidated by many of the mothers she met, but who also secretly scoffed at their high-end lifestyles. But what bothered me was this: Hemmings never really allowed Mele to speak her mind, except for in one scene near the end, and, vulgar though it may be, it's pretty fantastic and I actually cheered when I read it. I just wanted that Mele, the one who stood up to the Mean Girls of Mommyhood, through the whole book, not just in one tiny bit of dialogue at the end. It was almost as though Hemmings was afraid that she'd offend someone, and instead of writing the book she wanted to write, it felt like someone told her she had to tone down Mele's bite and acerbity, and so the reader is left wanting a bit more.

Interesting note: How to Party with an Infant is written by the author of The Descendants.

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