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Laura & Emma

Laura & Emma

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Laura & Emma

3.5/5 (20 evaluări)
339 pages
4 hours
Mar 13, 2018


“Masterly deftness, funny sentence by funny sentence...a moving and intricately braided story of two mothers.” Jonathan Franzen, The Guardian

This “beguiling, addictive read” (People, Book of the Week) and Belletrist Book Club pick about a blue-blooded single mother raising her daughter in rarefied New York City is a “carefully observed family story [that] rings true to life” (The New York Times Book Review).

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 a man. The two sleep together. He vanishes. And Laura realizes she’s pregnant.

Enter: Emma.

“Unputdownable” (Library Journal) and “wryly observed” (Vogue), Laura & Emma follows Laura as she raises Emma in New York City over the next fifteen years. With wit and compassion, Kate Greathead explores the many flaws and quirks that make us human. Laura’s story hosts a cast of effervescent and original 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.

“Kate Greathead’s debut novel gamely takes on class conflict, single motherhood, and the discreet pretension of the 1980s Upper East Side” (New York magazine) and is a “layered story about mothers and daughters and identity” (Entertainment Weekly). Told in vignettes whose every “restrained and understated sentence has been polished to glittering brightness” (Vox), Laura & Emma is “an incisive comedy of manners about class divides and the ‘burdens’ of being born privileged” (Esquire) and “a thoughtful novel of trying to find oneself despite an assigned place in the world” (Publishers Weekly).
Mar 13, 2018

Despre autor

Kate Greathead is a graduate of Wesleyan University and the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College. Her writing has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, and Vanity Fair, and on NPR’s Moth Radio Hour. She was a subject in the American version of the British Up documentary series. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband, the writer Teddy Wayne. Laura & Emma is her first novel.

Legat de Laura & Emma

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Laura & Emma - Kate Greathead


LAURA SOMETIMES WOKE UP IN the night, rattled by thoughts she’d never have during the day. A reoccurring nocturnal concern was that her apartment wasn’t really hers. She owned it, her name was on the door, there were official papers, but this wouldn’t always be the case; someday it would belong to someone else.

Looking around her bedroom envisioning everything packed up in boxes to be hauled off by movers was very unsettling. But this was the inevitable outcome of apartments—no one’s really belonged to them. In a hundred years the apartments of everyone she knew would be inhabited by future generations, whose taste in music and art and films and clothes would be completely foreign to her. Not that it mattered, as she, and everyone she knew, would be dead.

It was ridiculous to worry about, but in the sobering still of the small hours these thoughts consumed her, and were she to have a husband, Laura imagined she’d wake him up to unload them. And his laughing at their absurdity. And her laughing back. And then, feeling reassured and safely contained within the walls that surrounded her bed, drifting back to sleep.

The other time Laura thought having a husband would be nice was when something broke and it was too late to call the super. If it was after nine o’clock and she discovered her bedroom window was swollen shut from the humidity, or the smoke detector started beeping in need of a new battery, she had to live with it until the morning. That was it, though; these occasions aside, Laura was getting along very well without a man in her life.

But still—it upset her, the idea that she didn’t truly belong in her own apartment.

*  *  *

"REALLY, IT DOESN’T MATTER WHO you marry, Laura’s mother had said more than once. However madly in love you are in the beginning, one day you will find yourself sitting across a table from him thinking, ‘Anything, anything, an-y-thing would be better than this!’ "

Laura had never been madly in love—or even sanely in love. She didn’t hate sex, but she didn’t particularly like it either. The idea of being expected to do it all the time seemed exhausting. She was not a romantically or sexually inclined person. She’d heard that this was the case for some people and suspected she fell into this category. But upon turning thirty she decided to seek a professional opinion, and made an appointment to meet with a psychoanalyst.

*  *  *

THE OFFICE WAS ON THE ground floor of a Turtle Bay brownstone, and the analyst was comfortingly older, with a kind, intelligent face. Laura could tell he’d been handsome in his youth but in a nonthreatening way. After inviting her into his office, he took a seat behind a desk and gestured for her to take the chair across from him.

Before we get started, I’d like to answer any questions you might have about how this works, and hear a bit about you and what brings you here.

I know how it works, Laura told him. I’m afraid I’m not here as a long-term patient.

Laura paused in case he was interested only in long-term patients. When he didn’t say anything, she proceeded to explain her reason for coming.

Marriage had never appealed to Laura the way it did to other women. She was flattered by and appreciated the attention of men, but could do with just that. She was more than content with her life choices and current situation.

Then what brings you here?

I’m not sure, Laura admitted. I recently saw my internist for my annual appointment, and the results came back and everything looked fine, and I guess I came here hoping you could perform the psychoanalytical equivalent.

A routine mental, the analyst said, chuckling. You want a clean bill of mental health.

Laura smiled sheepishly.

Well, from what you’ve told me, it sounds like there are no issues.

It was probably silly of me to come, she said.

The analyst’s face suddenly turned serious. He stood up and pointed to the couch at the other end of the room. If you would lie down, we can get started.

Laura felt funny lying down in front of a stranger and asked if she could sit on the couch instead.

Your choice. However, many people find it easier to open up lying down.

In the spirit of cooperation she reclined. Notebook and pen in hand, the analyst settled into an armchair beside her.

Should I start with my childhood? she asked after a minute of silence.

If you like, he said.

Rather than sketch out her parents or brother or the general emotional atmosphere of her upbringing, she began describing a morning routine from her early childhood. It was of sitting on the toilet trying to go big jobbie, as her nurse called it. Marge insisted that this happen every day at the conclusion of breakfast, and Laura’s day was suspended until she did it. Marge would come into the bathroom afterward to inspect the evidence. Laura’s digestive system wouldn’t always cooperate with the schedule, and there were many lonely mornings of sitting on the toilet for hours, pushing and pushing and pushing until she was gasping for air—and having nothing to show for her efforts.

As Laura lay there reliving this, the contours of the light fixture on the ceiling went slack, and she realized she was crying. She was glad she was lying down, as it meant her analyst couldn’t see her face. But then a box of Kleenex appeared and hovered above her chest. He was leaning across the space between them to offer it. Her deep breathing must have given her away.

This is embarrassing, she said, taking a tissue and dotting the corners of her eyes.

Not at all, he said kindly.

Laura excused herself to use the bathroom. She blew her nose and splashed cold water on her face. When she felt composed, she returned to the couch, where she resumed their session upright.

*  *  *

AMONG THE MISPERCEPTIONS OTHERS HAD about Laura was that she was oblivious to her looks. This was largely due to the simplicity of her wardrobe. To work she wore a white turtleneck, one of five rotating Laura Ashley skirts, and a pair of Frye cowboy boots. One year earlier, a photographer named Bill Cunningham had taken a picture of her in this outfit. Laura had been waiting at the crosswalk of Lexington and Sixty-first and hadn’t known her photograph was being taken until it appeared in a series of street portraits in the New York Times. Her mother had been the first to spot it and called Laura to tell her. Laughing too hard to speak, she’d put Laura’s father on the phone, who directed her to the page of the newspaper.

Laura had put the clipping under a magnet on the fridge. But then this struck her as egotistical, so she took it down, and with the intention of keeping it safe, she’d put it somewhere she couldn’t remember.

Others in her social circle had also laughed at the photo. Of everyone they knew, Laura was the last person one would expect to see in the New York Times as a paragon of Manhattan style.

It was true Laura had little interest in clothes, but what people assumed was her absentminded ignorance of fashion was actually concern for the fate of the Earth. Everything she owned would one day end up in a landfill, and she avoided acquiring anything she didn’t need. She’d once heard the phrase Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without, and guiltily thought of it every time she bought new clothes—which was itself an ordeal, as it was difficult to find clothes that fit her. Laura was so small that most things had to be tailored, and to avoid the hassle she often found herself browsing the children’s section of whatever store she was in.

One afternoon she was in the boys’ department of Morris Brothers department store on Eighty-fifth and Broadway looking for a new winter parka—they were having a sale—when she felt something warm and moist against her thigh. She looked down and discovered a little boy, maybe three or four, burrowing his face into her jeans, seemingly for the purpose of wiping his nose.

Excuse me, Laura told him, realizing he must have mistaken her for his mother, but we’re not related.

The little boy looked up at her. His face darkened and he began breathing in a husky, emotional way. With each exhalation, a green bubble of mucus protruded from his nose.

You’re not my mom, he told her, shaking his head. There was a petulant, accusatory edge to his tone, as though Laura had posed as his mother with the intention of kidnapping him.

It’s okay, Laura attempted to reassure the child. Your mom is somewhere in this store. I’ll help you find her.

She reached out to pat the top of his head, but this only made the boy more suspicious, and after batting her hand away he took a doddering step backward, lost his balance, and fell on his bottom. For a moment he sat there in silence, a confused, slightly panicked look on his face, like he was playing the part of a little boy in a movie and had forgotten his line. Then he opened his mouth and screamed.

Joshua! an equally loud voice shrieked from the other end of the store. A woman came galloping toward them.

See, I told you she was here, Laura said cheerfully, and stepped aside as the mother swooped in like a bird of prey, scooped the child up with feral urgency, and began pecking his face with kisses.

As a dramatic reunion unfolded, Laura was troubled by two thoughts, the first being that this little boy had mistaken her for this other woman, who had a homely, disheveled look you often saw on the Upper West Side. Laura knew she was not a smart dresser, but she didn’t like to think she was in the same category as this woman. The second wasn’t so much a thought as a sudden awareness of her irrelevance in their universe, the parameters of which seemed to have contracted so that it contained only the woman and the boy. That this hurt Laura’s feelings confused and embarrassed her.

With the exception of Margaret, nearly all her contemporaries had children by now. Though a few had privately admitted to feeling initially bewildered by the little creature they’d brought home from the hospital—Edith going so far as to compare its appearance to a space alien—it was only a matter of time before they fell under the spell of unconditional maternal love. Though this seemed to be the universal trend, it still struck Laura as a roll of the dice—to allow fate to assign you a person whom you were expected to adore for the rest of your life. You did not get to choose your child, and while all the mothers she knew gave the impression of having received exactly what they would have ordered, it still seemed like a cavalier thing to do.

Also selfish. It had taken the world’s population until 1804 to reach one billion, and another one hundred and twenty-three years to double. What Laura imagined people assumed would be her greatest regret—not having any children—she considered her greatest gift to the planet.

*  *  *

HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT money? her analyst asked during their second session.

Laura thought it was an odd question. She wasn’t sure what there was to say.

Her income wasn’t much, but she had a modest trust, which generated annual dividends that her father’s accountant would transfer into her bank account. This extra money allowed her to contribute to various nonprofits, such as the Natural Resources Defense Council, the New York City Commission for the Homeless, National Public Radio, and the Barnard scholarship fund. What remained of this money she hadn’t earned went toward Christmas tips for her super, seamstress, the man who resoled her boots, the cashiers at her grocery store, the owner of the hot dog cart where she bought her afternoon Coca-Cola, her mailwoman, and the nice family who ran the Laundromat across the street.

She didn’t share any of this with her analyst, because it didn’t feel worth his time.

Many people are uncomfortable discussing money, he said after a silence.

I’m not uncomfortable discussing it, Laura clarified. It just doesn’t interest me. It doesn’t feel relevant to what I’m doing here.

And what would you say you are doing here?

I thought analysis was mostly for figuring out the emotional impact of your childhood.

And do you think, the analyst asked, that growing up in such a wealthy family had any kind of impact?

The word wealthy embarrassed Laura. It was not a word she or anyone she was close to used, and she wished her analyst hadn’t spoken it.

There are a lot of things that are difficult for me to talk about, she said. Things I’ve never discussed with anyone. Money isn’t one of them.

What about sex? he asked.

The whole point of having the patient lie down, as Laura understood it, was to avoid seeing the analyst and thus reduce inhibition. But today the analyst’s armchair was positioned at an angle where one of his shoes and a part of his leg poked into her frame of vision. He must have been sitting with his legs crossed because the foot was suspended in the air, and it bopped with a restless energy that was incongruent with his calm and measured speaking voice. As with many men, his pants rode up his calf when his legs were crossed, and his black socks only went up so far, exposing an inch of pale, hairy shinbone.

What about it? Laura asked him back.

Well—the foot bopping picked up with the speed of a dog’s wagging tail—do you ever masturbate?

*  *  *

I’M GLAD YOU ENDED IT, said Margaret, Laura’s oldest friend and confidante. The whole thing is a racket. Think of all the people we know who are going. Do any of them seem to be getting better?

Laura pondered this.

New Yorkers are so susceptible to these things, Margaret continued. The other day I overheard a woman in Bloomingdale’s talking about primal scream therapy. Margaret paused for Laura’s reaction. That’s the kind where you pay a hundred dollars for the privilege of sitting in a so-called doctor’s office and screaming at the top of your lungs.

I’ve heard of it.

"Apparently it’s supposed to take a year of weekly appointments to do the trick, but this woman claimed it cured her in a single session. Or saved her life, as she put it. Margaret laughed. Have you ever heard anything so ridiculous?"

The poor neighbors, Laura said.

MARGARET HAD ONCE CONFESSED TO feeling similarly indifferent to intercourse, but this didn’t stop her from marrying Trip, a boy they’d grown up with who had a reputation for a voracious and often indiscriminate sexual appetite, among other vices.

As a teenager, Trip had once gotten so tipsy at a cotillion ball that he’d vomited and a string bean had come out of his nostril. Though this had happened over half a lifetime ago, Laura still had trouble looking at him without this image coming to mind. Evidently this was not the case for Margaret, who, upon their being declared husband and wife, thrust a triumphant fist into the air, like an Olympian mounting the pedestal after receiving the gold.

Following the ceremony there was a reception at the Carlyle. A fleet of London Towncars had been rented to chauffeur the guests, but Laura decided to walk. It had rained earlier and the late April air was ripe with freshly fallen petals and the loamy odor of wet concrete. Puddles reflected quivering images of the blossoming pear trees that lined Madison Avenue. The sun on the sidewalk radiated warmth; it felt like the city was waking up from a nap. Laura could’ve walked all afternoon, but eventually she arrived at the Carlyle and felt obligated to go in.

The reception was a tedious marathon of thirty-second conversations with people she knew but didn’t really know. None of the toasts mentioned the string bean incident, especially not hers, which, Laura realized—halfway into it—focused exclusively on the earlier years of her friendship with Margaret, and offered nothing in the way of the woman Margaret had become, nor of Margaret-and-Trip, which was what wedding toasts were supposed to do—especially when you were the maid of honor.

When it was time for the bride to toss the bouquet, instead of haphazardly chucking it into the throng of little girls who stood on the dance floor waving their arms above their heads, Margaret (who happened to be very coordinated) threw it in such a way that it soared up and diagonally across the dance floor and landed at Laura’s feet.

All eyes on her, she had no choice but to pick it up. The girls flocked over, and she handed it to the youngest of them, who squealed over her prize.

*  *  *

THE LIBRARY, ONCE THE PRIMARY residence of Laura’s great-grandfather, was now a museum that was also used for private events. Originally this was a privilege extended just to corporate members and institutional donors, but the Library’s endowment was limited and, a decade ago, the board decided to make the venue available for rent to the public. Its tastefully renovated period rooms and marble banquet hall made it a popular wedding spot, so a new position was created: wedding coordinator. Laura, having just graduated from college with a degree in English, was initially reluctant to take the job. She wasn’t particularly ambitious, but she wanted to get involved in larger issues—do something that made a positive impact. But then she’d found the apartment. Though her parents would be helping her with the monthly maintenance regardless of her employment status, it didn’t feel right to own an apartment if you didn’t have a job. She accepted the position, and she remained there a decade later.

She knew it wasn’t like this for everyone. Those plucky, brave souls who moved to New York City on their own and had to start a life from scratch.

Laura recalled telling her parents she’d been taken off the wait list for Barnard. That’s terrific, her father had said, while her mother had groaned, I suppose this means we’ll have to have what’s-his-face and his dreadful wife over for dinner.

Laura was envious of others’ accounts of struggle, which were recalled with a certain fondness. It had been an adventure, the thrill of the hustle; they’d chased a dream against the odds, and now they were living it. She could only imagine the pride of being personally responsible for everything one had—professional success, friends, apartment—and being able to trace all this back to hard work. Knowing that everything in their lives wasn’t a given, that it could have all gone a very different way.

Laura had never even read the classifieds. There’d been no reason. Everything came to her through direct channels, and if her immediate network didn’t provide it, someone knew someone who could help. When deadlines were missed or obstacles encountered, a person of power or influence intervened on her behalf. Often this person didn’t know Laura: it was a friend of the family, a former classmate’s neighbor, the stepfather of a cousin-in-law—it didn’t matter. Phone calls were made; exceptions were granted; she was put on the top of the list.

Many of the brides Laura worked with were unaware of her personal affiliation with the Library, and she preferred it that way. Nepotism aside, Laura was ashamed of her great-grandfather, whose legacy of shrewd business dealings earned him a full page in her tenth-grade American history book in the section Robber Barons. Her mother bemoaned the fact that she hadn’t inherited a dime of his money (everything had gone to her uncle, his firstborn son), but Laura was glad this was the case. She did not want to be the beneficiary of the man who’d founded a bank in his name and had once been photographed with a dwarf on his lap.

And yet she was aware of experiencing a flush of something resembling pride upon hearing his name invoked by people who had no idea she was his great-granddaughter—the pride of moral superiority, suspecting that were they to share her ancestry (which also included the mayor of the original Mayflower community and the founder of the country’s first insurance company), they would seize every opportunity to let it be known.

*  *  *

LAURA DIDN’T LIKE VACATIONS OR travel, though come August she often relocated to 136, the four-story brownstone on East Sixty-fifth Street where she’d grown up. Her parents spent the month in Europe, so she had the place to herself.

There was a garden out back where she could lie in her bikini, something she’d never felt comfortable doing in Central Park. Laura loved sunbathing. She knew about the studies saying it was dangerous, but she kept doing it anyway. She wasn’t a drinker, a smoker, an overeater, or a consumer, but she was a sunbather; this was her one vice, and she’d made peace with it.

One Sunday night, after a weekend of reading and sunbathing at 136, Laura lay in bed on the verge of sleep when she heard the carpeted creak of someone coming up the stairs. There had been a string of burglaries on the block that summer, and she’d half been expecting this. She lay still as a corpse, which is what she’d heard you were supposed to do in these situations. So long as the intruder didn’t think you’d seen him, he had no reason to kill you.

To mitigate the terror she made a mental inventory of all the people she’d known who’d lived through these situations to tell the story at a dinner party. Then she started imagining how she would narrate her own story of surviving a break-in. Typically Laura became nervous when telling an anecdote to a group, and often held back for this reason, but this would be too good not to relay. She was at the part of the story that coincided with the present, and was waiting for what happened next, when she heard the toilet flush, followed by the sound of an electric toothbrush, and she realized that it was just another one of Nicholas’s friends.

Her brother, Nicholas, occasionally let out-of-town friends stay there. Laura didn’t mind; she felt safer knowing another person was sleeping in the house—but it would’ve been nice for Nicholas to have called to let her know of his guest in advance.

*  *  *

THEY CROSSED PATHS IN THE kitchen the next morning.

Jefferson, he said, offering his hand.

Laura, she said, shaking it.

She made herself a cup of tea and sat down to read the Times. There was apparently a new kind of cancer that, for reasons that remained a mystery to the medical community, afflicted only New Yorkers and people who lived in San Francisco. The article made her anxious, and she was relieved when she got to the end and it said that no cases had been reported outside the homosexual community or in women. She was annoyed the journalist hadn’t thought to put this fact in the

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  • Laura (the mother) and Emma (the daughter) have a strange (and strained) bond at times as they struggle with expectations of those in their social class (elites in NYC). Following along as they try to work out their troubles in this debut is a delight.

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  • (4/5)
    Laura & Emma by Kate Greathead follows the relationship between mothers and daughters, told in vignettes against the changing times between 1980 and 1995. It is a comedy of manners novel with loads of laugh out loud moments.Laura comes from a wealthy New York City family descended from a Robber Baron whose inherited wealth supports her. She has a degree in English and a job through the family. She envies self-made people.Laura has never been in love. Her mother's favorite saying is that it doesn't matter who you marry--you will end up thinking, "Anything would be better than this!"The book begins with Laura pondering that a husband would be nice to have around the apartment if the window were swollen or the fire detector battery needed replacing. She wouldn't have to wait until morning to call the super.She dresses in Fry boots and a flowered Laura Ashley skirt and turtleneck sweater--a uniform she wears all of her life. (I had those fry boots and made a Ralph Lauren full skirt. Unlike Laura, they went to the Goodwill long before the 1980s were over!) She has no intention of having children, no interest in marrying. She is concerned about the environment. She has The Enchanted Broccoli Forest and Moosewood cookbooks but rarely cooks.In 1980 while her parents are away, she stays at their home for a week. She is surprised that a man is also staying there. She assumes he is a friend of her brothers, and he does tell her stories of their time together in boarding school. Before the week is out, he charms her into bed with him. The next day he is gone.He was not a friend of her brother's but a house-crashing burglar. The one-night stand leaves her pregnant. Laura makes up a story of artificial insemination with donated Swedish sperm. Emma is born, and Laura does her best as a mother, hoping to give Emma a life different from hers, apart from artificial high society values. She finds an apartment on the border of Harlem--but on the 'right side' of the street.I laughed out loud so many times. Laura goes on a date and notices the man has earrings. She decides they aren't meant to be, but the earrings turn out to be his daughter's stickers.Laura's friend Margaret explains she has joined "the club", seeing a "shrink." After years of marriage, she sometimes looks at her sleeping husband, whose snoring keeps her awake, and thinks that it is a good thing she didn't have a gun in her bedside table.Don't worry, things turn out fine for the marriage. But what a clever scene to talk about the idea that "it doesn't matter who you marry, one day you'll be sitting across the table from him, thinking, Anything would be better than this." I'm pretty sure husbands think the same thing about wives. I'll ask mine the next time I am wearing sweatpants and a sweatshirt to keep warm--my Oompa Loompa look according to him.The book was promoted in terms of, "if you liked Ladybird or Gilmore Girls." Gilmore Girls included a single mom at odds with her wealthy parents, and Ladybird showed a teenager wanting the freedom to find her own way. The themes are similar.We learn about Laura by her actions and passivity. She is the least self-aware character imaginable. Her inner conflicts are hinted at without an overt authorial voice. We make connections about Laura by implication.Emma, on the other hand, is sharp as a tack. As a preschooler she asks Laura why they don't live "in their neighborhood," that is where their friends and stores are.I know readers who do not like this book because 1) it is episodic, without a strong linear plot; 2) it is character-driven without a lot of inner dialogue; and, 3) it is open-ended.But I enjoyed it. I love a good comedy of manners. Laura's inability to deal with adult intimate relationships, Emma's zeroing in on the inconsistencies of their lives, and the gaps between mothers and daughters all feel real.I received an ARC from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.
  • (5/5)
    Confession: I am a complete sucker for any novel featuring the rich white people of New York City doing stupid things. This is one of the best. Laura, heiress to a modest fortune and the most totally passive character I've ever come across, becomes pregnant by a "Six Degrees of Separation" type flimflam man and has the baby, Emma, because her cab takes too long getting crosstown for her abortion appointment. Ridiculous! And yet as the years peel along, Laura occasionally makes a decision (a move to a penthouse in almost Harlem, shopping in an actual bodega) and, by neglect and accidentally, Emma turns out to be a stubborn yet entrancing girl. The most amusing character is Laura's mother Bibs, archetype of a Lady Who Lunches, whose outrageous presence is necessary just to keep the entire work from being the equivalent of a long comfy nap in an upstairs room at a private club. So I'm afraid I am unable to morally justify my outsized pleasure at this very silly book. So what.Quote: "For many women, planning a wedding became something much more: an opportunity for the universe to make good on all the ways in which the bride felt she'd been shortchanged in life."
  • (3/5)
    I gobbled up this book in one day. Laura was such a real character, someone that you wouldn’t be able to get to know well if you met her in real life. Therefore, the access to her inner thoughts meant that much more. Emma’s quirky character also felt authentic, not prettied up so we would like her more. The upper crust life leant intrigue, but in the end, they are just like us with all of the same questions, worries, insecurities and faults.
  • (4/5)
    Laura was a strange bird. Not certain if she possessed much empathy. Liked her and slightly appalled by her. Hope she got off the roof.
  • (4/5)
    ‘’You’re not supposed to cry when someone gives you a present.’’ Although I’m not actually a reader of what I call ‘’Family Conflict’’ novels, I cannot say ‘’no’’ to stories whose protagonists are single parents. I consider the women and men who decide to raise their children without a partner’s help, overcoming any social or financial obstacles, to be the bravest of the brave. When the novel is also set in New York, I’m bound to read it eagerly. And I was not disappointed.The story centers around Laura, a bright, bookish young woman, who decides to let her defences down for a single night. The result is a baby girl, Emma. Laura decides to raise her daughter alone, since the father is a no-no case and from 1980 until 1995, we follow her development as a woman and a mother, we witness how the relationship with Emma evolves, we are a part of her dilemmas, hopes and frustrations. And let me tell you, ‘’frustration’’ isn’t an adequate word to describe the amount of idiocy of the people around poor Laura. Through her eyes, we also observe the changes not only of New York but of a whole era. While the focus is on the mother-daughter relationship, Greathead enriches her story with a number of issues, controversial and thought-provoking. New York is always a character in very novel set in this fascinating city, but I was very intrigued by the writer’s choice to place her plot in the special, turbulent decades of the 80s and the 90s. The HIV nightmare and the witch-hunt against certain groups of people. The impact of the World Trade Center, the various stereotypes and discriminations concerning the upper and middle classes and the diversity of the people who populate New York. In my opinion, Greathead succeeded in presenting a well-written, balanced social commentary, especially on the social conventions that dictate how a single mother is basically an incomplete person and the difficulty of a large number of people to accept that not all of us need a partner or a husband. That some of us don’t consider romance and sex as necessary in order to live a meaningful, useful life. More often than not, life provides many advantages to those who refuse to place themselves under the yoke....Can you tell I am frightfully against the idea of marriage? But anyway...The dialogue is vivid, the narration flows as we are given snippets of daily life, with an array of colourful (but highly unsympathetic people) and even more colourful incidents. Those who claim that this is a WASP novel of New York elite? Well, they probably watch too many bad TV series. Projecting our own bias into our understanding of a story is simplistic and juvenile. The problem is we never bother to look deeper into a situation and we think that placing labels on everyone is enough to get it over with. This is a major theme in this novel.I fully sympathised with Laura. She doesn’t accept the social restrictions and the etiquette of the so-called upper class. However, she doesn’t quite fit anywhere and her courage to stand up to her family’s questionable values is limited. But she tries, at least. She is a very good mother than noone seems to appreciate and I admit I wanted her stronger. I wanted her to punch all of her kin on their turned-up noses and tell them what’s what. Including her daughter who is one of the most revolting children I’ve seen on page. And believe me, I’ve had my full share of spoiled tiny humans over the years. Despite Laura’s efforts, Emma is selfish, spoiled, ungrateful, mean and never recognises her mother’s sacrifices for her. Much like her grandmother, actually. This is a finely written novel on the notion of motherhood, the sacrifices, the joy and the fear, the unique bond between a mother and a daughter with all the ups and downs. A novel of character, elegance, of sadness, yet hopeful and vaguely optimistic. The only weakness? The lack of compelling characters with the exception of Laura. Definitely a recommended read and bound to be one of the most beautiful debuts of 2018.Many thanks to Simon & Schuster and NetGalley for the ARC in exchange of an honest review.
  • (4/5)
    This was a funny and enjoyable story about a single mother and her daughter. It had a lot of tender moments and was well written.

    Many thanks to Netgalley and Simon & Schuster for this ARC.
  • (4/5)
    There really wasn't anything special about the characters in this story. Laura was a rich girl who had a very strange, almost childish way of seeing things. And, Emma was a very precocious and outgoing little girl. Some of the things that came out of Emma's mouth were hilarious. I laughed out loud several times.Despite that, I really liked these characters and sped right through this book. I liked both characters and had a great time sharing their lives.The ending was definitely a strange one which could hint a sequel. (Yay!!)Thanks to Simon & Schuster and Net Galley for providing me with a free e-galley in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.
  • (4/5)
    Good read and interesting story about the rich in NYC. Problem could not understand how and why it ended. Almost felt like the author became bored with the process.
  • (4/5)
    Thanks to the publisher, Simon & Schuster, via NetGalley, for an e-ARC in exchange for my honest opinion.This is Kate Greathead's debut novel about a mother (Laura) and daugher (Emma) relationship set in New York City during the 1980's and 1990's. It's a series of short vignettes by year starting with Emma's birth. Laura is part of the privileged Upper East Side with no intentions of becoming a wife and mother. Emma is the result of a one-night stand and Laura surprises herself by embracing motherhood and tries very hard to be a good mother.The personality differences of Laura and Emma were beautifully written and so believable. The closeness of the mother-daughter relationship slowly becomes strained as Emma enters the teenage years. There are some interesting side stories involving, among other topics, the HIV crises, privileges of the upper class, postpartum depression, and the recession.Ms. Greathead uses some humor and certainly seems knowledgeable about the time period in this novel. However, I was disappointed in the ending which was uncertain and I felt left hanging.
  • (4/5)
    Laura and Emma is a beautifully written book about the relationship between a mother and daughter, each an individual who marches to the beat of a different drummer. They are born into privilege in New York City’s Upper East Side, and Laura in particular struggles to separate herself from this life while still relying on aspects of this privilege. But the novel covers so much more – New York City in the 1980’s and 1990’s, the AIDS epidemic as it unfolds, and post-partum depression. Greathead has written a novel about life and managing the hand one is dealt while overlaying the issues of a complicated era. I received this book to read and review. All opinions are my own.
  • (4/5)
    Laura And EmmaByKate GreatheadWhat it's all about...Laura is an “upper class” girl...New York private schools, trust funds, and a family beach house that no one uses but her. By an unbelievable accident...she becomes pregnant. She decides to stay pregnant and has Emma. Even though Laura was born into money she is unique in her circles. Her clothes, her beliefs and her lifestyle are all different from her friends. They don’t really get her and the way she is raising Emma but they love her. Why I wanted to read it...This was a truly uniquely written book. It was written by years...we see the growth and changes in Emma and Laura as well as the changes in society. Laura’s family is more than a bit odd. Her mother...Bibs...is outspoken and could possibly have psychological issues but she is funny and loved by her friends. Her father is just a man of few words. She has a brother, too...Nick. He also seems a bit out of the ordinary. What made me truly enjoy this book...The chapters gave insight into what went on in Laura’s head as the world changed...it was a sort chronological study of certain events in the early 80’s until the mid 90’s.Why you should read it, too...I think I enjoyed this book because of all of its quirkiness. Bibs, Laura’s gay pediatrician, her Laura Ashley skirts and cowboy boots, Emma’s weird spunkiness, and even her odd neighbor who borrowed all of her chairs. Quirkiness was everywhere! The one thing I didn’t like about this book? The ending...I hated it...I didn’t even get it and I am still thinking about it. So...readers who enjoy this kind of material...should enjoy this book! I received an advance reader’s copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley and Amazon. It was my choice to read it and review it.
  • (1/5)
    I received a free e-copy of this book and have chosen to write an honest and unbiased review. I have no personal affiliation with the author. I did not enjoy this book. This is the story of a single mother and her daughter as she becomes a young woman. The characters all seemed quite superficial to me. They lived a life of privilege that seemed to be without purpose and meaning. The ending was quite abrupt and confusing. There didn’t seem to be a point to the story.