Laura & Emma A novel

Kate Greathead

Book - 2018

"A tender, witty debut novel about a single mother raising her daughter among the upper crust of New York City society in the late twentieth century from a nine-time Moth StorySLAM champion. Laura hails from the Upper East Side of Manhattan, born into old money, drifting aimlessly into her early thirties. One weekend in 1981 she meets Jefferson. The two sleep together. He vanishes. And Laura realizes she's pregnant. Enter: Emma. Despite her progressive values, Laura raises Emma by hers...elf in the same blue-blood world of private schools and summer homes she grew up in, buoyed by a host of indelible characters, including her eccentric mother, who informs her society friends and Emma herself that she was fathered by a Swedish sperm donor; her brother, whose childhood stutter reappears in the presence of their forbidding father; an exceptionally kind male pediatrician; and her overbearing best friend, whose life has followed the Park Avenue script in every way except for childbearing. Meanwhile, the apple falls far from the tree with Emma, who begins to question her environment in a way her mother never could. Told in vignettes that mine the profound from the mundane, with meditations on everything from sex and death to insomnia and the catharsis of crying on the subway, a textured portrait emerges of a woman struggling to understand herself, her daughter, and the changing landscape of New York City in the eighties and nineties. Laura & Emma is an acutely insightful exploration of class and family warfare from a new author whose offbeat sensibility, understated wit, and stylish prose celebrate the comedy and pathos that make us human"--

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FICTION/Greathead, Kate
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Subjects
Genres
Domestic fiction
Published
New York : Simon & Schuster 2018.
Edition
First Simon & Schuster hardcover edition
Language
English
Physical Description
334 pages ; 22 cm
ISBN
9781501156601
1501156608
Main Author
Kate Greathead (author)
Review by Booklist Reviews

The darkly funny way that single, thirtysomething Laura gets pregnant in 1981 sets the tone for Greathead's polished debut. Laura worries about overpopulation but, with no interest in partnering off, chooses to accept this surprise pathway to motherhood. And so the curious new human called Emma joins Laura's family of eminent Upper East Side WASPs. Laura, something of an outsider because she cares about the planet and dresses unfashionably, is unable to understand conflict, let alone mitigate it. Outspoken Emma wears her hardy heart on her sleeve from the start, though, and as she grows, she directs Laura's attention to oddities of their world she might never have otherwise noticed. Their story unfolds in richly interiorized episodes organized by year through 1995. Some years pass in a single page, giving due credit to the utter obliquity of time. Most impressive are the ways Greathead restrainedly shows her characters stretching at the seams of their own by-now-inherited restraint, and she paints their immense privilege with knowing nuance. Greathead's smart and original take on the mother-daughter novel impresses and charms. Copyright 2018 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

A nine-time Moth StorySLAM champion, Greathead flutters in with a debut starring Laura, born on Manhattan's gilded Upper East Side, who returns to raise her daughter within the confines of the private-school-by-winter, Hamptons-by-summer world she had renounced. Copyright 2017 Library Journal.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

Born with a silver spoon in her mouth, Laura naïvely considers herself to be living a modest life. She does have a job after all—never mind it's one created for her and sustained by her family connections. And she lives in a comparatively modest penthouse that is Harlem-adjacent. Despite her supposed frugality, she has never really had to work for anything and drifts along with a sense of financial security and being taken care of. Her passive take on life leads to an unexpected pregnancy that she doesn't terminate, more by distracted accident than by intention. And so she has a daughter named Emma. Motherhood doesn't much change the haphazard way Laura is used to dealing with life. When Emma develops into an independent young woman, it seems more in spite of her mother rather than because of her. VERDICT This novel makes a seemingly unlikable character sympathetic and interesting to the point that her story becomes unputdownable. Set against the backdrop of the 1980s to mid-1990s, this debut by a Moth StorySLAM champion will appeal to readers of character-driven women's fiction. [See Prepub Alert, 9/25/17.]—Karen Core, Detroit P.L. Copyright 2018 Library Journal.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

In Greathead's warmhearted debut novel, spanning 1980 to 1995, Laura, a quiet woman in her early 30s from Manhattan's Upper East Side, attempts to balance her progressive ideals with the lavish lifestyle she lives thanks to a trust fund. After a one-night stand with her brother's friend leads to pregnancy, Laura tries to forge a life for herself and her daughter, Emma, on her own terms—while also staying near home and accepting the help of her old-money family. The supporting characters who come in and out of Laura's life over the years sparkle with idiosyncrasies, especially Laura's mother, Bibs, and Emma's devoted pediatrician. The novel is told in short scenes; major events can happen off the page, as with the death of a loved one, which is revealed by a scene set at the reception held after the funeral. Greathead is a talented writer of detail, particularly in her evocations of New York life—subway sobbing, could-be celebrity sightings, the joy of a favorite grocery store—and specifically of New York's elite—board meetings, private preschool admissions, "the impermeable serenity of a Manhattan courtyard," and the specific difference between an address on 96th and Park and 96th and Lexington. This is a thoughtful novel of trying to find oneself despite an assigned place in the world. Agent: Amy Williams, the Williams Company.(Mar.) Copyright 2018 Publishers Weekly.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

Conceiving a child during a weekend fling, a 30-something product of progressive Manhattan old money raises her daughter in the same blue-blood world of her own upbringing before her daughter begins to question their environment in ways she never could herself. A first novel.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

"A tender, witty debut novel about a single mother raising her daughter among the upper crust of New York City society in the late twentieth century from a nine-time Moth StorySLAM champion. Laura hails from the Upper East Side of Manhattan, born into old money, drifting aimlessly into her early thirties. One weekend in 1981 she meets Jefferson. The two sleep together. He vanishes. And Laura realizes she's pregnant. Enter: Emma. Despite her progressive values, Laura raises Emma by herself in the same blue-blood world of private schools and summer homes she grew up in, buoyed by a host of indelible characters, including her eccentric mother, who informs her society friends and Emma herself that she was fathered by a Swedish sperm donor; her brother, whose childhood stutter reappears in the presence of their forbidding father; an exceptionally kind male pediatrician; and her overbearing best friend, whose life has followed the Park Avenue script in every way except for childbearing. Meanwhile, the applefalls far from the tree with Emma, who begins to question her environment in a way her mother never could. Told in vignettes that mine the profound from the mundane, with meditations on everything from sex and death to insomnia and the catharsis of crying on the subway, a textured portrait emerges of a woman struggling to understand herself, her daughter, and the changing landscape of New York City in the eighties and nineties. Laura & Emma is an acutely insightful exploration of class and family warfare from a new author whose offbeat sensibility, understated wit, and stylish prose celebrate the comedy and pathos that make us human"--

Review by Publisher Summary 3

Conceiving a child during a weekend fling, thirty-something Laura, a product of progressive Manhattan old money, raises her daughter in the same blue-blood world of her own upbringing before her daughter begins to question their environment in ways she never could herself.

Review by Publisher Summary 4

'masterly deftness, funny sentence by funny sentence...a moving and intricately braided story of two mothers.''JONATHAN FRANZEN, The Guardian*BELLETRIST BOOK CLUB SELECTION**ONE OF ESQUIRE's BEST BOOKS OF 2018 SO FAR**MOST ANTICIPATED BOOKS OF SPRING 2018 SELECTION BY * NYLON * SOUTHERN LIVING *'[A] sly, charming debut'Laura and Emma's struggles are real, and their saga makes for a beguiling, addictive read.''People (Book of the Week) Laura hails from the Upper East Side of Manhattan, born into old money, drifting aimlessly into her early thirties. One weekend in 1981 she meets Jefferson. The two sleep together. He vanishes. And Laura realizes she's pregnant. Enter: Emma.Despite her progressive values, Laura raises Emma by herself in the same blue-blood world of private schools and summer homes she grew up in, buoyed by a host of indelible characters, including her eccentric mother, who informs her society friends and Emma herself that she was fathered by a Swedish sperm donor; her brother, whose childhood stutter reappears in the presence of their forbidding father; an exceptionally kind male pediatrician; and her overbearing best friend, whose life has followed the Park Avenue script in every way except for childbearing. Meanwhile, the apple falls far from the tree with Emma, who begins to question her environment in a way her mother never could. Told in vignettes that mine the profound from the mundane, with meditations on everything from sex and death to insomnia and the catharsis of crying on the subway, a textured portrait emerges of a woman struggling to understand herself, her daughter, and the changing landscape of New York City in the eighties and nineties. Laura & Emma is an acutely insightful exploration of class and family warfare from a new author whose offbeat sensibility, understated wit, and stylish prose celebrate the comedy and pathos that make us human.