Thursday, September 29, 2016

"How to Party with an Infant," by Kaui Hart Hemmings

Kaui Hart Hemmings is most well known for her novel “The Descendants,” set in Hawaii, which was made into a popular movie starring George Clooney. Hemmings has published other novels and short stories as well. “How To Party With an Infant” (Simon and Schuster, 2016), is set in San Francisco, where the author lived for a time, before returning to Hawaii. I know, of course, that we are not supposed to assume any autobiographical elements unless told that they are present, but it seems that several elements of this novel match elements of the author’s life. In any case, the main character and narrator, Mele Bart, is the single mother of a young child, Ellie. Her main connections are with the members of her mothers' group. She had to try out several groups within the larger organization, the San Francisco Mommy’s Club (SFMC), until she found one that she felt comfortable with. The major reasons that I enjoyed this novel are: 1. The author and her narrator have a wry, dry sense of humor and voice (as indicated by the title). 2. The novel both explores the world of mothering (in middle-to-upper-class, mostly white, urban America) and makes fun (sometimes gentle and sometimes rather scathing) of the super-self-conscious parenting found in liberal, prosperous enclaves these days. 3. And this third reason is personal because I live in the San Francisco Bay Area, used to live in San Francisco itself, have worked there my whole career and go there almost every day, and enrolled my daughter in preschool and then school there (many years ago...): I loved reading about the various areas and scenes in San Francisco. The narrator loves her daughter dearly, but finds single parenting difficult and lonely at times. This is a sometimes humorous, sometimes sad story, but overall an entertaining one that makes some sharp points, as well as some perhaps too-easy ones.
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