first, THE GODMOTHER seems like a novel you might have read before.
Thirty-something Tessa King returns to her chic London flat after
five weeks in an intensive yoga course at an ashram. Restored by
her break, tanned, tightened and trim by the yoga, Tessa falls
right back into the whirlwind of "relationships" (or one-night
stands) and friendships that define her life. Pretty typical chick
lit stuff, right? Think again.
The reason Tessa took a sabbatical? To escape from her former boss,
who had been stalking her obsessively. With a restraining order in
hand and plenty of leads on new high-powered legal jobs, Tessa
finally feels able to move forward. But in what direction?
Tessa has always lived vicariously through her friends, their
spouses and their children, many of whom boast Tessa as godmother.
There's "child of the universe" Helen, a beautiful, risk-taking
woman who has sacrificed everything for her obnoxious, womanizing
husband and their newborn twins. There's single mother Billy, who
dotes on her fragile seven-year-old Cora even as she holds a
flickering torch for Cora's absent father. Old friends Claudia and
Nick are dying to be parents but can't conceive. Then there are
Francesca and Nick, the ideal couple, who are discovering that
parenting only gets tougher as the teenage years loom. And finally,
there's Ben, Tessa's life preserver, confidant and perfect match
--- if only he weren't already married to the ideal woman.
Adrift and aimless after her return to London, the normally
high-achieving Tessa has a hard time focusing on her own return to
work --- she's so invested in her friends' lives that she is having
difficulties working on her own. And the more time she spends with
her friends, the more she talks with them and the more confused she
gets. Everyone has a secret, it seems, and every secret shakes
Tessa's ideals and makes her question what --- or whom --- she
really wants. "I was beginning to feel like a failure just for
thinking that maybe I wanted a husband and some kids. Was it so bad
to want what everyone else had? Why did I have to do everything for
myself when everyone else was getting help? When was someone going
to look after me?"
Debut novelist Carrie Adams's British publishers call THE GODMOTHER
"chick noir," and parts of it are dark indeed. Graphic descriptions
of miscarriage, frank discussions of drug abuse, infidelity and
obsession --- all these shadowy elements help set Adams's novel
apart from its competitors and ground it more firmly in a rather
bleak depiction of real life.
That's not to say that THE GODMOTHER is one big downer.
Coincidences, romances and second chances help keep things from
getting too black. Tessa and her friends are almost all
well-developed, easily distinguishable and compelling. In fact,
readers' main complaint after finishing this hard-to-put-down novel
is that they wish to spend more time with these fascinating
friends. Fear not, though --- even though THE GODMOTHER leaves
plenty of loose ends untied and provides almost no conventionally
happy endings, its sequel (THE STEPMOTHER) is being published in
the UK this winter. US fans, we hope, won't have long to wait until
we can spend more time in Tessa's magnetic circle of friends.
Reviewed by Norah Piehl on June 2, 2011