Little Earthquakes by Jennifer Weiner
I found this book on my daughter's shelf as I was sorting out books to recycle and remembered that I had quite enjoyed her 'Good in Bed' so thought I would give this a try. I'd just finished 'White Tiger' by Aravind Adiga so I needed a light read to get over that one.
The author, Jennifer Weiner was born in 1970 on an army base in Louisiana and she grew up in Connecticut. She graduated with a degree in English literature from Princeton University.
Her other include novels 'Good in Bed', 'In Her Shoes' ( made into a film starring Cameron Diaz and Shirley MacLaine), Goodnight Nobody', a short story collection The Guy Not Taken', Certain Girls which is the sequel to Good In Bed', and finally her latest 'Best Friends Forever'.
Her books can be found in print in 36 countries and there are over 11million copies of her books worldwide which is no small achievement.
What do the critics say?
The Washington Post writes "Weiner's gift lies in her ability to create characters who both amuse us and make us care,"
The Tampa Tribune says the book "will charm and delight readers with its mix of heartbreak and humor."
Why did the author write this story?
I listened to an interview when Ms Weiner said that after she had her first baby she felt that no one prepares you for the reality of what it is like after having a baby. You are happy, sad, so in love with the baby that it overwhelms you, your relationship with your husband, your mother or mother in law all change because of what is happening in your life with the baby. Suddenly everything evolves around the baby there is a constant need for you, a complete lack of sleep, on top of all that you are not really able to have a minute to yourself.
The story centres around four women whose friendship develops during their pregnancies. As with her previous book that I read 'Good in Bed', the leading character, Becky is rather overweight and she is married to a doctor. We then have the gorgeous, mixed race Ayinde, who is married to a famous black basketball player, Kelly a perky blonde and then Lia, an actress joins the group after the other women have their babies.
"Little Earthquakes" shows these women in a very down to earth way. All is not so rosy and happy after the babies arrive. We experience the birth of their children, see their lack of sleep and the struggles they face while adjusting to motherhood. It is not all misery and gloom as there are some lighter moments and I did empathise with some parts of the baby arrival.
The characters in my view are a bit stereo typical and I struggled to remember who was who until about half way through the book. The characters were not especially likeable and I found it hard to relate to them really. Although it's nice to read about people with self doubts, personal flaws and real problems I think this needs to be balanced with realistic responses to situations the characters are put in.
Becky is supposed to be the capable one, she laughs with her friend s about her impossibly overbearing mother in law while still working almost in her restaurant and looking after the baby. The impossible mother in law plans a full Christmas celebration despite the fact they are all Jewish, buys what Becky calls tarty clothes for the baby and then decides to move in with them for some time.
Despite having put up with all this and more Becky towards the end of the book suddenly has a change of heart and feels sorry for this neurotic controlling woman which I found hard to believe.
Ayinde is beautiful and has a wealthy successful husband and servants and an amazing home however the husband is discovered to be cheating on her. Has this plastered in the papers and suffers total humiliation but the next part is so unrealistic but would be a spoiler so I can't go in to what happens just be prepared!
Kelly wants everything to be absolutely perfect. She lives without a settee until she can buy THE one she wants and nothing but the best will do. Her plans get thwarted when her previously successful accountant husband loses his job. Their relationship becomes very tense with her total insensitivity and downright unpleasant attitude towards her husband. Having said that he is pretty hard to take too a he just sits around taking a break from the rat race while she rushes around trying to keep everything together. I find it hard to believe that he would just sit around and be that useless after being so successful at work before. Later in the book some simple explanation is given and all is well, it was as though the author got fed up with writing and needed to finish it all and wrap up the loose ends.
The final character is Lia who has lost a baby and is struggling to get over this and she virtually stalks Becky for most of the book until stunningly Becky invites her in and then even more amazingly she lets Lia look after her baby. I mean how unrealistic is that?
I have read a few reviews where people suggest this would be a fun book for a new mother. In fact the author herself said in interviews that she wanted to write a book where the joy of motherhood was balanced with a realisation that new babies were hard work and they changed your life forever.
I think she certainly shows that having a baby changes your life but the joyous feelings were well and truly masked for me. I found that none of them seemed to dote on their babies as I did. I really loved my babies and played with them, I obviously loved every stage but the excitement and overwhelming sense of responsibility of your first baby is something you never forget. It is a magical time, exhausting and you have no time to be you but it is a time I would not change.
We got a few glimpses as Becky plays with her daughter but she was also pleased to be going back to work. Maybe I was strange but I loved being with my babies and found them a true joy. Yes I was exhausted from lack of sleep, I was finishing my degree and had a husband who was not that helpful too plus a rather over -enthusiastic mother in law and my own mother in England while I was in Australia but I still wouldn't change that time.
I rarely give up on a book but I felt a bit let down in the end. I felt the story was a bit misogynistic as many of the husbands were less than perfect, one seemingly a mummy's boy. Not all men are useless, my first husband was pretty bad but my present one is brilliant and I do think for the sake of reality a balance is needed. Some new mums are pretty useless too.
This was an easy read in the chick lit sort of genre but a bit depressing I found. I certainly wouldn't give it to anyone who is expecting their first baby to read nor to anyone suffering from post natal depression. I'm glad I read it so long after I'd enjoyed my babies otherwise it might have clouded my feelings or made me feel that I was strange!
To me the characters were a bit one dimensional and the men were either useless, unpleasant or sneaky which I felt was unnecessary as many men today are brilliant with their babies and are often house husbands.
So all in all I am unimpressed. It was an easy read but an annoying and frustrating one and a letdown. It certainly has not made me want to rush and buy any more of her books.
Like so many children's stories that end "They all was happily ever after". I felt she just got fed up with the story and needed to wrap up the loose ends and that is where it became even more unrealistic, in my view.
Couldn't decide between two or three stars - about two and a half in my view.
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