Mia Geiger

The Philadelphia Inquirer
Weiner flavors newest chick-lit with a mystery
Reviewed by Mia Geiger

Jennifer Weiner tells it like it is.

She tells what it’s like to be an educated, ambitious woman forced to play Candy Land for hours on end. She tells what it’s like to see your husband jet off to work, then come home and surf the Web while you try desperately to keep three toddlers from climbing out of the bathtub.

She tells what it’s like to be an adult still seeking the approval of a parent, to struggle to fit in with peers who seem to do everything perfectly, and what it’s like to pine for the one that got away.

Weiner does all that and more in Goodnight Nobody, the Philadelphia-based author’s fourth novel. While her last book, Little Earthquakes, dealt with women having their first babies, this one mines the fodder-rich field of mothers of preschoolers.

Goodnight Nobody has a bonus dimension, though, as the best-selling author infuses a whodunit into the mix. The result is a chick-lit novel that fans of both women’s contemporary fiction and light mysteries will devour.

The story is narrated by 30-ish Kate Klein, whose warmth and wit make her immensely likable. She’s also vulnerable, particularly when it comes to her hard-to-please mother and an insensitive former flame whom she can’t stop thinking about, despite being married with children.

Sidetracked from her job as a journalist and immersed in parenting a 4-year-old daughter and 3-year-old twin sons, Kate’s mettle is tested further after she is “strollerjacked” in her beloved New York City and her husband insists they move to Connecticut.

Kate – a little plump and a lot harried – struggles to fit in with the beautiful, seemingly perfect supermoms she meets at the playground in the cushy Connecticut suburb called Upchurch:

“I wasn’t at the bottom of the Upchurch mother totem pole; I wasn’t even on the pole. I could barely see the pole. If one woman announced that she was using recycled-paper diapers, the mother next to her was using cloth, and the woman next to her was using cloth diapers she’d personally sewn. If one mother was allowing her child to eat only organic food, then, Mommy Number Two was feeding her kid organic vegetarian cuisine, and the mommy after her was an organic cruelty-free vegan who gave her children only cucumbers and carrots grown in her backyard, nourished with mulch she’d composted herself.”

When one of the mommies is murdered, Kate starts asking questions, despite disapproval from her self-centered and workaholic husband. Janie Segal, Kate’s rich, party-girl friend from her single days, helps her track down a list of suspects.

Weiner manages to take the serious themes of commitment, self-esteem and identity and mix in moments of laugh-out-loud humor. One hilarious scene, in which Kate and Janie employ unusual tactics to persuade several 9-to-5ers on a train to give up their briefcase-strewn second seats, is alone worth the price of the book.

The novel’s keen insights into women’s lives prove why the author, a former Inquirer reporter and currently a guest columnist, has become one of the hottest chick-lit mavens. All three of her earlier books became best-sellers, with the second, In Her Shoes, opening tomorrow on the big screen.

While the mystery in Goodnight Nobody will keep readers guessing, it’s the engaging Kate Klein – and her take on motherhood and womanhood – that propels the book to one that begs to be read in one sitting. It’s time well-spent, even for time-crunched mothers.

Mia Geiger is a freelance writer in the Philadelphia area.


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