By Julia Fierro
(St. Martin’s Press, Hardcover, 9781250042026, May 2014, 336pp.)
The Short of It:
Parenting. It’s no picnic.
The Rest of It:
Parents are the bones on which children cut their teeth — Peter Ustinov
A playgroup, which consists of five families and a nanny, head to a beach house for a little vacation. Although Nicole’s intention is to provide respite to those within the playgroup, her invitation serves another purpose. It gives her a reason to escape the city. The internet rumors about the end of the world and how it happens to fall on that particular weekend have left Nicole more than a little paranoid. No longer taking her anxiety medication, she resorts to smoking pot. A mother of a three-year-old resorting to pot and spending the weekend with a house full of kids during what she fears is the last weekend of her life? Yep, makes for some good storytelling.
The dynamics of the playgroup is, in my opinion, what makes the story so compelling. This is a diverse group of people and it’s hard to go into the book without giving you a sense of who they are. So here’s some info on the rest of the group:
There’s Susanna and Allie and their twins Levi and Dash. Susanna is in the late stages of their 3rd pregnancy and so Allie goes along on the trip, mostly to appease Susanna but knowing that a playgroup weekend is not really her thing.
Rip and Grace and their four-year-old Hank, have a different story. Hank is a result of an anonymous sperm donor and although Rip desperately wants another child, mostly to extend his role as a stay-at-home dad which he treasures more than anyone knows. Grace isn’t drinking the Kool-Aid.
Leigh comes with her two children, Chase and Charlotte but her husband Brad does not join them. Chase is “on the spectrum” and is a handful for Leigh. As his mother, she does the best she can do for him but feels that her best if often not good enough. Brad has no patience for the kid, which hurts Leigh deeply although she doesn’t admit this to her husband.
Tiffany and Michael are engaged to be married and their daughter, Harper Rose is three, going on thirty. Tiffany is clearly the outcast of the group. Young and beautiful, she gets along best with Leigh but the rest of the playgroup barely tolerates her. Except for Rip, who seems to have eyes for her. She is attractive in an obvious way and not afraid to show it.
Then there is Tenzin, the Tibetan nanny. She is the wise, doer of all things, fixer of all boo-boos for both the children and the adults. Even though she has a family of her own and cannot be with them, she does her best to surround these children and parents with love and positivity. Something that they don’t see too often.
There is no sugar-coating going on here. The story is told in alternating chapters, so you get a real feel for what these people are made of. Their hidden agendas, their secret attractions and their frustrations over their own relationships with both their significant others and their children. NONE of these people want to be there. They accepted the invitation to be polite, but also hoped to get a little relaxation in at the same time. Impossible to do with so many people and children in the house. Even with a nanny putting out fires at every turn, tempers flare. How can they not?
Sensitivities over parenting style, breastfeeding, the whole work-out-of-the-home/stay-at-home debate and even diet come into play. No one is spared the scrutiny of the other parents and it’s impossible to turn away from it. Dysfunction is compelling and dysfunction that you can somehow relate to? Even more compelling.
I was not a model mom when my kids were young. I did all the right things but I was anxious all the time. Why did they cry ALL the time?? I had one kid that did not want to breastfeed no matter what I did (if you know me, you can probably guess which one) and then the other wanted to breastfeed forever. I had ZERO patience for the tantrums and could not do the whole playgroup thing. The women seemed vacuous and too perfect on the outside. I was the one with the spit-up in her hair. The one that always looked like she could use a nap. Probably because in those days, I functioned on less than three hours of sleep a night.
Yep, I get it. So to me, this book was like a breath of fresh, dysfunctional, pot-laden air. This is how it really is. But then, that made me sad. There are two characters that piqued my interest the most. Tiffany, the outcast, and Rip, the stay-at-home-dad. To me, they both seemed to be the best parents of the group, if you can give anyone a medal for their parenting, but living your life through your children? That is something I see a lot of and it’s a sad state of affairs. Rip uses his stay-at-home status as a way to hide from the real world and Tiffany’s only hope of having friends is being a part of a playgroup. Sad.
The inclusion of the Tibetan nanny was interesting. I have to admit, that I groaned a little when she first entered the picture. I am half Tibetan and I worried about her character being too stereotypical but I worried for nothing. Tenzin provides the much-needed balance. Without her, there’d be no voice of reason and these people would kill each other. I do wonder how the author came to include a Tibetan character in her novel. Maybe she knows someone from Tibet?
I suspect that this book will be getting a lot of buzz in the coming months. I’d be surprised if it didn’t. It’s complex and at the same time, very difficult to put down. I read it in a couple of sittings but it’s one of those books that I will be thinking about for a very long time. The picture Fierro paints of Nicole smoking a joint after putting her son down. I bet lots of parents do that, they just don’t admit it or maybe their joint is a glass of wine. Whatever the vice, I can relate.
Make sure you pick-up a copy because people will be talking about this one.
This giveaway is for one copy of Cutting Teeth and is open to the US and Canada. A winner will be chosen randomly by me. The book will come directly from the publisher. Only one entry per person. Giveaway closes on May 31, 2014 (pacific). I will contact the winner for his/her mailing address.
CLICK HERE TO ENTER THE GIVEAWAY! (now closed)
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Source: Review and giveaway copy provided by the publisher via TLC Book Tours.
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28 thoughts on “Review, Tour & Giveaway: Cutting Teeth”
Wow, this sounds like a great book club pick besides. Ti, I can totally relate….I have no patience for tantrums at all and unfortunately, she has quite a few over the littlest things. I was never the “perfect” looking mom and I can’t tolerate fakeness in playgroups either. UGH But this sounds like something I would love to read and now that I know the nanny meets with your approval, I’m good to go cut my teeth! 🙂 LOL lame, I know.
I wouldn’t have minded more of the nanny. She was the only sane person in the house. Oh man… from my short 3 month maternity leave, I knew that I could never be a full time SAHM. My brain was so spongy by the time I went back to work. That’s not the say that other moms are like that. I can only speak for myself but man was I was mess.
This sounds so good, as the mother of three year old twins, going off on holiday with other parents and their children sounds like a total nightmare. Not something I’d want to do, but definitely something I’ll happily read about!
No kidding!! Definitely NOT a vacation if you ask me. Plus, too much togetherness grates on the nerves anyway. As I get older, I find myself liking solitude more and more.
I skimmed your review, but then found myself going back and reading it from start to finish. As a mother of a 30-year-old I wasn’t sure I’d want to read about playgroups and young parents, but your review has convinced me otherwise. This sounds intriguing!
If I had a baby today, it would absolutely be a different experience. The role of social media has changed parenting, in my opinion. Mothers breastfeed their babies while looking at their phones and with the constant stream of information, do they ever really tune all of that out? So yes, I was thinking that I would have a hard time relating to these new wave parents but that wasn’t the case at all. The real issues remain the same. I hope you do read it. There is so much to think about.
This sounds like one amazing book. When my girls were little, playgroup was a wonderful support. After the kids went to school, we turned ourselves into a book group just so we could keep meeting regularly. Now, most of the group has moved, several have gotten divorced, and one of the kids died in a tragic accident, but we all still have a special bond from surviving those early years. We even visited one of the couples on our recent trip to Florida.
I can’t wait to read this one, despite (or maybe because of?) all the dysfunction. Thanks for a great review, Ti!
How tragic that one of the kids is no longer alive. That would break my heart. I was part of a playgroup. It was a great resource when the kids were young but there was a phase where there was also too much drama. I broke away during those years but have since reconnected now that our kids are teens or heading into their teens.
As you said, people change, marriages dissolve and yes… people grow up. The parents in this bookseem to be at different stages in their lives. That is what makes them such an odd group. It’s as if ALL they had in common at the time was their children. I bet that happens all the time.
Ooh. I have this and really want to read it. Great review.
Can’t wait to hear your thoughts. It’s a little on the gritty side.
I absolutely loved your thoughts about this book. I still am not sure how I feel about this but I have to ask myself if I feel this way because I don’t have children…I have been around tons of kids…teaching..but I could always leave them and go home. I sort of felt more the way Allie felt…I didn’t really want to be there.
That could be, Patty. To get a full picture of parenthood, you sort of need the warm fuzzy moments too. There really weren’t any in the book. The closest Fierro got to that, was the breastfeeding moments but even then… it was clear that focus was on the kid sucking the parent dry. Sorry to be so blunt. Kids take and take in this novel. Had they been home, in their own environment, there’d be less of that I’m sure. My kids were always off on vacation and not able to adjust well to changes like nap times, eating schedules, etc.
I generally have a REALLY bad reaction to alternating perspectives, but in this context I think it could really work. Definitely want to try this one.
When the characters have strong, distinct voices, alternating between them works well for me. I never had a problem trying to remember who was speaking.
I admit this one doesn’t appeal to me at first glance, but after reading your review, I will have to rethink that. It sounds like this book offers a lot of food for thought and one that would be very relatable to just about every type of parent in one way or another.
I have no experience with playgroups at all, unless you count her soccer class. We don’t really interact much with the other parents though. It’s such an active class, there’s really no time. Mouse has had a couple of playdates with her best friend from school, if that counts. Her friend’s mom is really nice–although I definitely feel like she knows more about what she’s doing than I do–of course, she’s a teacher, so I’m sure that’s part of it. I know I’m not perfect and make plenty of mistakes. I’m not the worst mother in the world, but I’m far from the best.
And I can relate to how draining children can be. People told me that having a daughter would make me feel younger, but instead I often feel older. LOL
I can only speculate because I am not having more children to test the theory out but girls are harder when they are young. That has been my experienced. They are more demanding and seem to know what they want, earlier. My son was very laid back when young but now he is a challenge.
What a great review! We had a playgroup when my kids were small and I’m still very close to two of the women now that my kids are teens. But I remember some moms being judge-y over parenting choices, diet, discipline, etc. and feeling not quite perfect enough to be in the group (even though I’m the one who started the group!!) Thanks so much for being on the tour!
Thank you so much for this incredibly generous and thought response to Cutting Teeth. It means the world to me to have a reader like you.
One of my closest friends used to watch my children for a few hours a week, and she is Tibetan. We met at the playground where she was working as a nanny for another family, and now she is one of my best friends. When she came to the Cutting Teeth launch party last week, I was so happy to have her there that I cried right up at the podium in front of everyone. 😉
My friend, like the character Tenzin, worked in the US for 4 years while her husband and children lived in India. She just brought all of them to the US and I am elated for them. Her compassion and generosity has been a huge gift in my and my family’s life, and so I knew she had to be an inspiration for the character of Tenzin.
Warmly, and gratefully,
Thank you so much for taking the time to comment. It means the world to me! Plus, you were kind enough to answer my question. I grew up not knowing much about my Tibetan background since my father never really worked through all of his feelings over fleeing Tibet. I could never ask questions and at the time, my teachers didn’t even know what Tibet was. So anytime I see a Tibet reference my interest is piqued.
Thanks for writing such a great, thought-provoking book.
Thank YOU, Ti. Your generosity is such a gift for a first-time author like me!
Ahhhh this sounds like such a timely read for me! Were you thinking about me when you were reading it? 😉 Motherhood. I at the same time adore being home with Evie and hate it. I love sending Elle to school and I hate it. I haven’t showered yet today and I’m debating whether there’s any point to it or not. Playgroups. Eh. Though I did have a moment of anxiety the other day when I thought that was kicked out of the mom group from Elle’s school. I stressed about it for hours and then realized that I just missed it on my FB mobile app. Oops. No pot for me, but I do enjoy a small glass of wine every night.
Um, so certainly count me in for that giveaway. 🙂
I was thinking of you! Not the terribly dysfunctional parts of course. LOL. I just think parenting in this day and age has a few new challenges. I didn’t handle it all that well when they were young and now, you can even ask them, they think I have become a crazy person. Oh well.
BTW… you have to complete the form to enter the giveaway for I did it for you!
I’m officially sold on this book now. I wasn’t sure if it was for me, but it sounds like my perfect book!
This sounds like it would make a great book club discussion book. Thanks for sharing. They cover alone is quite cool.
I wasn’t sure if I wanted to read this until I read your review. I might even suggest it to my book group next week. Thanks!
I ordered this one from Amazon from my kindle after reading your review. Can’t wait to start it!
Thanks for being a part of the tour! I’m featuring your review on TLC’s Facebook page today.