The Smart One by Jennifer Close
Published by Vintage ISBN 978-0-307-74370-1
Trade paperback $15, 432 pages
While vacationing at the beach, I read the perfect beach book- Jennifer Close’s The Smart One. I read her previous novel, Girls in White Dresses, and liked it, but found it hard to relate the 20-something single girls, as I have passed that mark awhile ago.
But The Smart One refers to Weezy Coffey, the fifty-something wife and mother of three adult children, so I was all about this book. Weezy is knee-deep in preparations for her daughter Claire’s wedding. Then the wedding gets called off and Claire goes into a tailspin, quitting her job too.
So she must move back home to Pennsylvania, where oldest daughter Martha also lives. Martha was a nurse for a short time, but that didn’t work out, so she has been working as a manager at J. Crew. Martha has social issues; she really has no friends and never had a boyfriend. Coping with the world is not her best skill.
Son Max is eighteen and away at college. Then he gets his girlfriend Cleo pregnant and they move into the basement.
So now Weezy and her husband Will, who had been looking forward to an empty nest, find themselves with all three adult children back home. How did this happen?
Weezy so enjoyed all of the wedding planning that she just never told the florist or the caterer that the wedding was off. She continued to meet with them, tasting menus and looking at gorgeous floral arrangements. What was the harm in that?
I identified with Weezy, and winced when I saw characteristics in her that I do not like in myself. “Weezy had a high horse. And she could get on it whenever she wanted. Maureen used to always tease her when she’d go off on other people’s behavior. “Uh-oh”, she’d say. “Giddyup! Here comes the horse.” Ugh.
Weezy not only had to deal with her children, but her elderly mother Bets and sister Maureen. The descriptions of family Thanksgiving celebrations and all of the maneuvering and trying to keep peace and not blow a gasket, well if you can’t relate to that, you’ve never had a family Thanksgiving.
The story is told from alternating view points- Weezy, Martha, Claire and Cleo. Their voices are all distinct and strong , something I found a bit lacking in Girls in White Dresses.
The details in this novel are so perfect. I loved the list of THINGS WE NEED that is taped to the refrigerator. When things got purchased, they were crossed off, and a new list was started.
Max played hockey, and the descriptions and feelings that Weezy had about being a hockey mom brought me back to my days as a baseball mom. I don’t know how someone as young as Close was able to tap into that, but she sure did.
She also nails the new parent feelings that Max and Cleo have when their baby is born. Those feeling you have of love mixed with sleeplessness mixed with exhaustion mixed with joy; it’s all right there.
And I loved the idea of naming tables at your wedding after favorite books! Oh I wish I had thought of that 26 years ago.
One of the characters, Jaz, a wise woman, tells Martha “It’s funny, you know. Not what I had planned for my life, but that’s how it works sometimes.” That pretty much sums up the theme of The Smart One. Life isn’t always what you dreamed; you play the cards you are dealt.
The Smart One bridges the gap between young women starting out and older women, watching their children make mistakes and not knowing what to do. I think that women of all ages should read this, it will help them empathize and understand each other.
Rating 5 of 5