Friday, May 16, 2014

Review: Cutting Teeth by Julia Fierro

Very frequently in the press you hear about the "Mommy Wars" where working moms and stay-at-home moms take pot shots at each others' choices. But rarely do you hear about the tension and unpleasantness within each subset. And it's certainly there. I've been a mom now for over 17 years and some of the most fraught and contentious conversations about parenting I ever had happened in the baby and young child years when it seems like every choice will forever after determine your inclusion or exclusion on the good parenting rolls. It's not a time I'd like to revisit ever again and yet that's exactly what I did when I opened the pages of Julia Fierro's new novel, Cutting Teeth.

Nicole, who is OCD, invites her entire playgroup out to her parent's beach home to escape for the weekend after she reads about a web bot predicting something terrible in NYC. The playgroup is made up of an eclectic group of moms (and one stay at home dad) who all have children between 3 and 4 years old. There is Rip, the stay at home dad who desperately wants another child in order to stay pertinent and his workaholic wife Grace. There's Susanna, the pregnant lesbian partner to Allie, an artist who has misgivings about being a mom. There's Tiffany, the social climbing sancti-mommy and her fiancé Michael. And there's Leigh, who wanted a second child so badly she was willing to steal PTA funds to finance another round of IVF and whose husband couldn't make it, opening the door for her to bring her Tibetan nanny Tenzin, a calming influence on everyone but especially on Leigh's oldest, Chase. The characters all have little in common besides the age of their children, without whom they undoubtedly would not be friends. It is this very marked difference amongst them that promises thrumming tension and ultimately an explosive weekend, even if it's not the sort of disaster that Nicole is nervously anticipating.

Fierro has written as cast of fairly unlikable characters. All of them have their quirks but over all, they are unpleasant, competitive, judgmental, righteous, and self-involved. While each of them suffers from their own insecurities, they also harbor a fairly nasty superior streak. Their interactions with each other are manipulative and insincere and they made me incredibly uncomfortable. The namby-pamby lack of discipline made my skin crawl and I had a seriously visceral reaction when, egged on by bossy Harper, the only girl in the playgroup, the boys crushed to death all of the sea creatures they'd collected. Just a little too Lord of the Flies. The characters themselves seem chosen in order to be representative, hip, and inclusive what with a couple who has fertility problems, a stay at home dad, a lesbian couple, a developmentally delayed child, and a sanctimonious organics only mom. Most of the parents have a chance to narrate the story, giving the reader more insight into what drives them but this insight doesn't serve to make them any more appealing. In fact, as hard as parenting is for everyone (not just these characters), it is depressing that none of them seem to find much joy in their children unless they are getting a self-esteem boost because that child is proving they are good parents. There's no simple pleasure in being a parent, no plain happy moments. More realistic by far than the unicorns and rainbows version of parenting, nevertheless the emotional train wreck of this novel made it hard to read.

For more information about Julia Fierro and the book, check out her website, her Facebook page, or follow her on Twitter. You can also take a look at the Good Reads page or follow her on Pinterest. Follow the rest of the blog tour or look at the amazon reviews for others' thoughts and opinions on the book.

Thanks to Lisa from TLC Book Tours and the publisher for sending me a copy of the book for review.


  1. The characters do seem a bit..contrived? I was considering reading this but I might give it a miss?

  2. I'd say the doom and gloom is equally realistic as the unicorn and rainbows; both focus on the most extreme and usually ephemeral moments. I lose patience more quickly with the people who focus on the rottenness of parenting -- they are equally annoying but tend to bring me down instead of inspiring me to cheerful sarcasm.

  3. I read a book like that recently. I know parenting, like life, is not all hearts and flowers but it's not all a slog through the swamp in waders either. Look at it this way, your weekend will be better than that! :O)

  4. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this book for the tour.


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