…in order from worst to best.
The two words that come to mind when I think of Family Trust by Amanda Brown are “frivolous” and “dumb.” Brown is the author of the Legally Blonde novel, but having read Family Trust I wonder if the movie’s charm came from elsewhere. At any rate Family Trust seems to have been written solely in the hopes that it, too, would be converted into a Reese Witherspoon film. If we are lucky, it won’t be. The premise of the book is that unmarried parents die in a plane crash, each appointing a separate guardian for the four-year-old left behind. The two different-as-can-be guardians have to learn to get along as they raise their new daughter and then—wocka wocka wocka—fall in love.
The Ivy Chronicles by Karen Quinn lands in the middle of the scale. It’s not a whole lot less frivolous than Family Trust, but there’s a goofy quality about the book—the main character goes on a date with George Clooney; another character gets eaten by an alligator—that reminds me of Janet Evanovich. The plot here centers on New York businesswoman Ivy Ames, who loses her bigshot job and bigshot husband and so launches a company that helps parents get their kids into the best private kindergartens. (Aside: this topic—the snootiness and impossibility of Manhattan kindergartens—seems to deliver endless fascination to chick lit authors and audiences. It appears in both Family Trust and The Nanny Diaries. I kinda don’t get it.) Along the way Ivy does anything to make her clients successful: working with a mobster, painting a little girl black, even selling out her own (Jewish) people for cash. But in the end she regains her dignity and fixes some of her more pronounced value flaws. I recommend this book over Family Trust mainly because it’s sillier and there’s a lot more swearing.
The one I liked the best was Sabine Durrant’s Having It and Eating It, a novel about the shadowy sides of parenting and marriage. By far the most realistic of the three books, Durrant’s novel follows Maggie Owen, a stay-at-home mom of a baby and a toddler who has grown increasingly estranged from her busy advertising exec hubby. Filled with dark humor and adorable British lingo, Having It and Eating It explores the inherent tensions of child-rearing and long-term relationships, the lure of adultery, the peculiar joys and jealousies of women for whom motherhood is a full-time job.
With that, I’m over my chick lit experiment. I never could find any lad lit aside from Nick Hornby (who I think is good but ever-so-slightly overrated); apparently this was a genre more or less invented by publishing houses hoping to bring chick lit to the boys. But they failed—pretty big time—because, of course, most men don’t read fiction that isn’t headlined by the likes of Jack Ryan and Dirk Pitt. Geez, we could have told them that!