Leave It to Claire
From the opening line of this Mom Lit novel, you plunge into the disaster-prone life of Claire Everett. This single mom has forgotten to take her oldest child, a high school cheerleader, to the football game. A writer lost in her story, Claire sits in a daydream-like state and is trying to keep her fingers on the keys and move her characters in her current Christian romance novel.
A huge portion of Claire's support system is her mother, who lives two doors down the street. When mom decides to move to Texas and be near Claire's brother, this support system instantly disappears. We learn that Claire's divorce occurred when her husband Rick, a local doctor, had an affair, and now he is married to a younger woman, Darcy. In recent months, Rick and Darcy have committed their lives to Christ and become regulars at Claire's church.
With every page, Claire's life grows more complex. Her ten-year-old son Shawn is called into the principal's office for his poor poetry describing a naked image of the school secretary. Thirteen-year-old Tommy wants to change his name to Tank, which is much more acceptable among the edgy skateboard crowd. Claire's youngest child, Jake, is hooked on video games. And if there is a food choice for her family or herself, it's likely to be pizza. Finally, when she goes to the doctor, Claire learns that the pain in her wrists is carpal tunnel syndrome and the only relief will require surgery on her hands, a key tool for any writer.
With her life spinning out of control, Claire decides she needs a plan. She grabs the nearest blank paper, a Wal-Mart receipt, and creates a six-step process: get to church more (maybe even a Bible study), clean her house, reconnect with her children, exercise (then she writes "maybe"), improve her social life to consist of more than just computer online groups, and finally read HOW TO MAKE FRIENDS AND INFLUENCE PEOPLE. To top off her list, she adds, "List to be amended as necessary."
Change is a constant in Claire's zany life, and throughout the story she achieves the goals on her list and so much more. I loved following Claire's life in the first-person viewpoint and the page-turning writing style of Tracey Bateman. The dialogue is fast-paced and the characters distinct and vivid.
Like anyone who has gone through a divorce, Claire has issues with her ex-husband and his wife. At first she tries to ignore these feelings but then comes face to face with her need to handle them with grace and forgiveness.
As is the case with any good first novel, Bateman wraps the various threads of the story so that everyone is "relatively" safe --- until the next shoe drops and the reader can pick it up again in the sequel. I can hardly wait to read it.
Reviewed by W. Terry Whalin on November 13, 2011