Thursday, December 11, 2008

Title Eight: The Godmother by Carrie Adams

Oh, British chick lit. How ya doin'? Tessa King is a single lawyer in her 30s who quit her job and went to an ashram to get over the horror of being stalked by her boss (did she read Eat Pray Love too?) and has just come home to find her friends all crazy-like. Of course, she's the only single one, but she's godmother to four of her friends' kids, and now she has a hankering to get her one of them there babies everyone's talking about. Tick, tick, tick, says Tessa's clock. However, Tessa can't quite let go of being that fun, drunk, takes-home-one-night-stands friend. Besides, there don't seem to be any suitable men around. Anyway, with so much going on with her friends, who has time to find a man and make a baby?

Tessa's circle of friends saves this book from being annoying, navel-gazing dreck and gives it real bones. Fran and Nick have been Tessa's friends forever, along with Ben, who is married to Sasha. Fran and Nick's son, Caspar, is a 16 year old wiseass and Tessa's first godson who wins a place in my heart by making a TARDIS reference on page 170 (yes, I dogeared it). Al and Claudia are trying to get pregnant, and there is a heartwrenching chapter that deals with the results of that. Helen has been one of Tessa's closest friends since the two met on a drug-enhanced visit to China Beach in college, and she is probably the best character in the novel, even if she is married to a pig named Neil and completely drained by her newborn twin boys. The biggest heartbreak of all centers on Helen and I freely admit to weeping in my tub when I read it. Providing backup is Tessa's old friend Billy, a single mother whose precocious daughter Cora is another gem.

Of course, The Godmother has some of the requisite hijinks - otherwise how would it sell to bored housewives? - posh mummies are vapid; one-night stands are sorely regretted in the morning; boozy afternoons go awry; foreign doormen are angels in disguise. Thankfully, while the first third of the novel is rather heavy on the standard plot points, it begins to expand as the focus shifts from Tessa to her friends.

Essentially, the book is more about Tessa's friends than Tessa, which I found incredibly refreshing. The trick to Adams' debut novel is that those friends are revealed bit by bit, and all through Tessa's eyes. As the story progresses more secrets are exposed; more cobwebs are brushed away; more light is shed on things long kept in the dark. Both Tessa and the reader figure out that the facade is paper-thin and gives way at the least pressure, and what is underneath is so much more than you could ever expect.

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