Thursday, April 19, 2012

Book Club: Little Earthquakes {Review}

Well...hmmm.  I didn't not like this book.  I just didn't love it.

I've heard, of course, the old adage ~ "never judge a book by it's cover".  But, you know something?  I do often judge books by their covers.  I'm more drawn to certain books on the shelf or the "new release" table based on the visual appeal of the cover.  Regardless of the cover, if it's a book in the genre I tend to read {usually chick-lit, fiction, female-protagonist pieces, although not always}, I always read the back cover or inside flap to find out what the story is all about, and I usually flip to the first page right there in the store to see if the book grabs me right from the get-go.  Sometimes the book with the most interesting cover has me zoning out before the first page is over ~ then I know it's not for me.

Not only do I use a book's cover to help draw me to it, but I usually form an opinion about the tone of a book from the cover as well.  A James Patterson mystery's cover is probably going to look very different than Elizabeth Berg's newest novel about a wife and mother trying to find her own identity outside of her family role; and the vibe of both those covers will be different still from the picture-heavy tome featuring the history of Boston's working class, or the unauthorized autobiography of Justin Bieber.  So, you can see why I feel somewhat comfortable throwing caution to the wind and ignoring that famous pearl of wisdom, and in fact judging a book by it's cover.  But I've come to realize that while the cover may be able to tell you some things, there can be a lot more under the surface that the cover doesn't even hint at {maybe those old wives do actually know what they're talking about...}

When I saw the cover of Little Earthquakes, with it's pretty pastels and chubby baby legs {not to mention just a hint of diaper-butt}, I figured I was in for a lighthearted story of new motherhood.  The Miami Herald quote on the front cover told me that this book was "hilarious, heartbreaking, and insightful", so I figured I could expect some serious moments ~ you know, giving a grounded portrayal of marriage and motherhood, not just a head-in-the-clouds idealized version.

Instead, I found very little hilarity in Little Earthquakes ~ it was far too serious and borderline depressing to be funny.  Is motherhood really that much of a bummer for the average Jane?  I don't have kids myself, and while I don't expect that being a mother is all sunshine and rainbows, I'd like to think that there's something enjoyable about it ~ otherwise, what's the point?

When we meet the main characters, they are three very pregnant strangers who meet in a pre-natal yoga class.  Becky, Kelly and Ayinde form a fast friendship {out of convenience and the fact that they have impending motherhood in common, initially}, and the novel sees them from pregnancy, through delivery, and into full-fledged motherhood.  Each woman has her own issues and personal problems going on, which is fine ~ we all have our own drama to deal with, and marriage, motherhood, and life isn't all sunshine and rainbows.  Their issues range from a meddling mother-in-law to financial worries to infidelity.  A fourth main character, Lia, is dealing with her own baby issues and personal struggles.  Lia is outside of the yoga-friends loop but winds up being a friend to the girls as well {after basically stalking them for months in a fairly creepy fashion...but whatever}.

So many elements of Little Earthquakes are far-fetched and unrealistic ~ starting with the rapid formation of the women's friendship.  Perhaps most annoying to me?  Ayinde's husband is a professional athlete; when she is in labor, the nurses and doctors all but ignore her except when they're asking when her famous husband is going to arrive, at which point they follow him around like puppy dogs.  I've known both professional athletes and healthcare professionals; people are impressed with celebrity, yes, but they are not usually quite so ridiculous about it; also, giggling, ooh-ing and aah-ing over a high-profile patient {actually, a patient's high-profile spouse} in a hospital setting goes against just about every code of professionalism.  The parts of the book that mention how everyone Ayinde encounters thinks her husband is so amazing, drooling and falling all over themselves and saying ridiculous things, was so irritating to me I almost couldn't stomach it.  I think it's safe to say Jennifer Weiner has not spent any length of time with any public figures, or any labor-and-delivery nurses either.

I wouldn't tell you to not bother reading this book; if you're caught up on your to-read list, your favorite shows have gone into reruns, and you're looking for something to fill the time, it's definitely not the worst book you could read.  Hey, I read it start-to-finish;  when I really dislike a book, I can't even make myself do that.  In a nutshell, it was just more of a downer than I was expecting {those chubby baby legs are so misleading!}, there were so many unrealistic or unbelievable elements, and it just wasn't the best effort that Weiner has ever put out. 

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