Published by Simon & Schuster
Publication date: August 9th 2016
At twenty-eight Mele Bart finds herself as a single mother, because after giving birth to daughter Ellie her boyfriend Bobby tells her he was “kind of engaged” to someone else. What?! Not one to wallow and with a infant to care for, Mele moves on. In an effort to have some kind of life outside her apartment she tries to find support in one of the neighborhood groups of the San Francisco Mother’s Club, but finding the right SFMC to join it’s harder than it sounds. She’s looking for somewhere between the crunchy granola mothers who breastfeed until the child leaves for high school and the yummy mommies who
She looked like she was going to the Golden Globes and she wasn’t holding a baby. She looked like she had never held a baby, just a Pomeranian in a Burberry raincoat, and I wondered if babies were discouraged at playdates.
Thankfully, she encounters Annie, Barrett, Georgia and Henry and their laidback, irreverent SFMC chapter is born. Things gets even better when the SFMC runs a cookbook competition which she enters, banking on her experience as a recipe blogger. One of the names she suggests for her cookbook, if she wins, is How to Party with an Infant, which is also the name of this new novel from Kaui Hart Hemmings.
How to Party with an Infant is structured around the questions found in the competition’s entry questionnaire. Questions like: What is your proudest moment?, How do you unwind?, What was the last thing you ate? and Does your husband cook?—which Mele is certain is a deliberate dig at the fact that she has no husband. Each of these questions allows her to digress from the competition back into her life. In addition, she decides to talk with the mothers in her group and translate their stories into a recipe for each where the food will fit the story. In doing so, Hemmings gives the reader a glimpse into the lives of four very different women and one stay at home father (who made so much money at Microsoft he’s opted out of the workplace).
Similar to her previous novel, The Descendants, Hemmings uses How to Party to untangle the skeins of emotion that lie underneath the surface of adulthood. Am I good mother/father/friend? We always fall short, but with humor and grace she points out the foolishness of our desire to impress the babysitter, uber-mommy, anyone we perceive to be doing the job better than we are. That she does so with a sense of humor that pops the balloon of super-mother righteousness is just one more reason the novel should be mandatory reading for mothers of young children. For the rest of us, the fact that her wit is similar to Maria Semple’s in Where’d You Go, Bernadette? is recommendation enough. After the heavy reading I reviewed on Monday, How to Party with an Infant is the just-right-porridge of Goldilocks reading.