Publication date: March 13th 2018
Genres: Debut, Fiction, Literary, New Adult
The whole point of this feature is that it’s for books that did not come together for me, but this is one of the first times I’m doubting myself, because two of the bloggers I know and trust loved Laura & Emma. I did not. I didn’t even like it. I disliked it, but gladly admit that maybe I was in the wrong mood for the novel and am wrong in my assessment. In that spirit, there are links after my review to the bloggers I know who enjoyed the novel.
I requested Laura & Emma because it ticked every box in my ‘oh, this is going to be so good’ reading checklist. Debut? Check. Female author? Check. New York City? Check. Quirky female protagonist? Double check because she’s rich as well. The novel is the story of Laura, a young woman who comes from such wealth that after college she doesn’t even need to look for a job, she just goes to work at one of her family’s foundations in a job they create for her. After an unusual one night stand she’s pregnant and decides to have the baby. Emma. The novel covers both their lives for the next fifteen years.
Laura is an odd blend of earnest and entitled. She seems uncomfortably aware of being in the 1% but again and again in the novel, takes full advantage of her advantages. She has no problem informing her ‘job’ that she wants to work part-time but continue to be paid a full-time salary and to get two months paid summer vacation. What? Either you care or you don’t. She recognizes that she’s entitled, but doesn’t want to own it nor does she want the reverse—to turn away from it and get a real job, making real life decisions. Whenever anything goes the slightest bit wrong, she heads home to live off Mummy and Daddy. Or, to be more specific, to make the family housekeeper/cook babysit Emma whenever Laura needs a break. In fact,
Life was much easier at 136. Dinner was prepared, the house was cleaned when she wasn’t looking, she could pass Emma off to Sandra when she needed a break. After a week, Laura decided that it made sense, at least while Emma was a baby, to stay there…
I’m a big fan of both subtlety and satire and appreciate both, but in Laura & Emma it felt as if there was too much of one and not enough of the other. As in, author Kate Greathead overdosed on subtlety—to the point I couldn’t tell what was humor and what was meant seriously, and held back on the satire, which made what may have been meant as scathing feel completely tone deaf. Just as importantly, I never got any sense of connection between Laura and Emma. She seems to have had her because…why not?
Ultimately, Laura & Emma gave me nothing to hold onto. To the point that I set it down twice, for over almost two weeks, when I was already 80% of the way through, which is almost unheard of for me and not a good sign. Greathead did not create a bond between her characters and my brain. However, after hearing other people’s opinions on the book I did pick it up and finish it ,which was not a great idea because the ending made me furious. I’ve yet to talk to anyone who can tell me exactly what it meant. It confirmed my initial feelings about the book then multiplied them tenfold. And, to quote Forrest Gump, “That’s all I have to say about that.”