Publication date: February 25, 2014
Part two of my growing up series is book two of Gemma Burgess’s trilogy, Brooklyn Girls. In Love and Chaos, the focus shifts from Pia, the heroine in book one to her best friend, Angie, the rocker girl with the Keith Richards lifestyle. Angie is the type of person who is both scary and someone you want to be. On the surface, nothing gets to her. She could be seen as the epitome of today’s women—owns her sexuality, believes in herself, takes no prisoners. Sounds like fun, until the reality of her lifestyle hits. She loves fashion but in Manhattan, in these economically challenging times, she cannot find work. What she can find are wealthy, spoiled young men who want to spend time with her and give her expensive gifts. This works, right up until she finds an envelope of cash left on a hotel nightstand. Suddenly, free-wheeling takes on a new meaning and she doubts her ability to judge men and manage her life.
If the outer world is messed up, the world at Rookhaven, the Brooklyn townhouse Angie shares with Pia, Julia, and Coco, is a place of security. Angie becomes friends with the steady girl, Julia, who has a job in an investment bank and is, in her mind, missing only love to have a perfect life. It is here that Angie starts to discover that her tough girl exterior may not be serving her as well as she thought. As she open up to these young women she realizes that maybe certain aspects of her early life have created this false sense of bravado. Of her mother she says
She got so fat during the pregnancy that she wouldn’t leave the apartment after I was born in case she saw someone she knew. So apparently I didn’t see the sun until I was five months old and she’d lost the weight. And that, my friends, sums up Annabel’s whole approach to motherhood.
There’s a welcome camaraderie in Love and Chaos that can sometimes be missing from female centric writing. The girls may not like each other all the time but ultimately they care for and support each other—which is a welcome quality to see. Each one represents one of the many stages of the after-college life from having it all together to train wreck. Initially, Angie is closer to wreckage and her ability to deflect bad feelings with a wit that is sharp with truth, doesn’t help.
What has not changed in Love and Chaos, besides the girls’ ability to drink all night and then get up in the morning, is Burgess’s knack for falling right back into the patois of twenty-something women. Having been one once, I read these books for the pure bliss of remembering those times and the rueful reminders of mistakes made. From this distance I know it will all work out, but when you’re living it, it doesn’t always feel that way. Burgess captures the angst of it all and the booze-driven melodrama but mixes in a shot of reality to make it a smoother drink.