Published March 13th, 2018 by Simon & Schuster
Genre: Literary Fiction
My Rating: 4/5 Stars
First of all, thank you to Simon Books for gifting me this beautiful book (#partner). Not only did they send me an ARC copy, but also a stunning finished copy. As someone who loves to read hardcovers at home and carry around paperbacks with me everywhere I go, this was definitely an ideal situation, and I traded off between reading the two copies and finished it in just a couple of days.
I’ve been in just a little bit of a book slump lately, so flying through this one so quickly was exciting for me. I was hooked by the writing from the very beginning and it was the prose, I think, that kept propelling me through this narrative. This writing is really really good. It’s funny, real, at times a little ridiculous, and is just really gorgeous prose. I loved the way Laura thought about things–her character was quirky and interesting and I really loved getting to know her.
Laura and Emma is the story of Laura, a single mother living in New York City, and her daughter Emma. The story starts out before Emma, and continues through until she is leaving for school. Laura is pretty well off–she comes from a wealthy family and although having a child on her own wasn’t part of her plan, she finds support from her family and does well for herself.
This book was presented to me as a sort of Gilmore Girls type story. And while yes, it is about a single mother and daughter with the mother coming from a wealthy family and wishing to raise her daughter differently, that was pretty much where the similarities ended for me. It was quirky and fun, but the relationship between Laura and Emma is very different, and much of it takes place when Emma is actually still really young. I don’t think the comparison is wrong necessarily, but if you’re a hardcore Gilmore Girls fan hoping for that same vibe, I’m not sure that this book will give that to you.
The story spans a number of years relatively quickly, and doesn’t necessarily have a “plot” in the typical sense. The plot is just their lives, without too much specific drama unfolding. We get vignettes from over the years, bits of life and family drama as Emma grows up, and by the end we have a pretty good picture of Laura and her life and her relationship with her daughter. There were times I really wanted to slow down and spend more time in a specific year, but overall I thought this format worked really well for the novel and Greathead did a good job moving through time without making it feel disjointed.
What didn’t work for me was the character of Emma. That isn’t to say I didn’t like her… I just never felt like I really understood her. We spent so much time in the mind of Laura, and then jumped over to Emma’s point of view only occasionally as she got older. So for me, this book is really about Laura. And in trying to put us in Emma’s mind too, I felt like the book was trying too hard to make it about both of them without really ever committing to Emma. In the end, I didn’t feel like I had a good picture of Emma’s character. She didn’t feel as real or complete to me as Laura did, and and I didn’t understand her choices or motivations at the end. This left me feeling a little disappointed and let down.
All in all, I very much enjoyed this book. It was funny, sweet, and the writing was really wonderful. The New York City setting is almost a character of it’s own, and I loved the way the chapters were each a new year. It didn’t wow me, but I was still sad to close the book and leave these characters behind.