Friday, March 9, 2018

Review—Laura & Emma by Kate Greathead

Publisher: Simon Shuster
Published: March 13, 2018
Genre: Fiction
Source: Print ARC
Rating: 3 Stars

A tender, witty debut novel about a single mother raising her daughter among the upper crust of New York City society in the late twentieth century from a nine-time Moth StorySLAM champion.

Laura hails from the Upper East Side of Manhattan, born into old money, drifting aimlessly into her early thirties. One weekend in 1981 she meets Jefferson. The two sleep together. He vanishes. And Laura realizes she’s pregnant.

Enter: Emma.

Despite her progressive values, Laura raises Emma by herself in the same blue-blood world of private schools and summer homes she grew up in, buoyed by a host of indelible characters, including her eccentric mother, who informs her society friends and Emma herself that she was fathered by a Swedish sperm donor; her brother, whose childhood stutter reappears in the presence of their forbidding father; an exceptionally kind male pediatrician; and her overbearing best friend, whose life has followed the Park Avenue script in every way except for childbearing. Meanwhile, the apple falls far from the tree with Emma, who begins to question her environment in a way her mother never could.

Told in vignettes that mine the profound from the mundane, with meditations on everything from sex and death to insomnia and the catharsis of crying on the subway, a textured portrait emerges of a woman struggling to understand herself, her daughter, and the changing landscape of New York City in the eighties and nineties. Laura & Emma is an acutely insightful exploration of class and family warfare from a new author whose offbeat sensibility, understated wit, and stylish prose celebrate the comedy and pathos that make us human.

Laura becomes a single mother from a one night stand, resulting in her baby girl, Emma. She decides to raise her on her own, despite the trials and difficult obstacles it may bring. The biggest one being that of course, she’s doing it alone! Laura came from old money and the rules and way things work for the rich, make it almost shameful that she doesn’t have a father helping her raise her baby. 

We follow Laura and Emma as they make their way through life. I liked that the book took of us from 1980-mid 1990s. It made me feel closer to the characters as a whole. There was a reviewer that said that she thought book was “kooky” and “quirky”, I’m inclined to agree with her. The story did have a very quirky feel to it but it was also serious when it needed to be. 

I think my biggest problem was the fact that I felt the story lacked depth. Sure it was serious at times but it felt stilted and unrealistic. I tried very hard to connect with Laura but I couldn’t. I felt sympathy for her sure, but as a connection, no. I like to feel some sort of connection with the main character I’m reading about in some sort of capacity. Overall, the book was fun and you’re looking for one that’s full of “family drama” and not in the least deep, this is for you. 

*Thank you to the publisher for providing a copy for an honest and unbiased review. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 

Buy the Book-

About the Author-
Kate Greathead is a graduate of Wesleyan University and the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College. Her writing has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, and Vanity Fair, and on NPR’s Moth Radio Hour. She was a subject in the American version of the British Up documentary series. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband, the writer Teddy Wayne. Laura & Emma is her first novel.

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