In your twenties, a good test of a friendship is travelling with someone. In your thirties and forties? Add kids to the mix. Watching how others parent is revealing – friendships become either rock-solid or they quickly dissolve. I can think of lots of personal examples. Lots*.
Cutting Teeth by Julia Fierro exposes differences in parenting styles and how these differences influence relationships. Fierro takes a playgroup (the parents are all thirty-something hipster couples from Brooklyn) and sends them for a family weekend away at a modest beach house on Long Island (‘modest’ equals thin walls and shared bathrooms).
It’s easy to pit parenting styles against each other – laissez-faire versus the control freak; Steiner versus Kumon; the working against the stay-at-home parent. Fierro assigns each of her characters a stereotype and throws in a few #firstworldproblems for good measure (expect OCD, fertility issues, ADHD, brats, financial pressures, social climbers and a power-struggle over a Tibetan nanny). Add in back-stories for each character and a finale dinner party (where the shit-hits-the-fan, so to speak) and that’s about the sum of Cutting Teeth.
I’m afraid I found this story a little too obvious. I wanted the characters to surprise me, to smash their assigned stereotypes, but none of them did. The writing was fine – there were hints of pithy humour – but it didn’t thrill me. Fierro pokes fun at the Brooklyn hipsters (well, I’m assuming she’s poking fun) but doesn’t quite take the joke far enough. If you’re going to do it, go in hammer’n’tongs.
“Hey,” Rip said, “Tiff tells me you knit. We should get a beer or something and you can teach me how.”
“Man,” Michael said with a quick wink, “I can knit the shit out of a baby sweater.”
My point of comparison for the modern mothers group/ playgroup/ parenting story is Tsiolkas’s The Slap. If you’ve read it, you’ll understand the benchmark is high.
2/5 Pretty sure Brooklyn hipsters are the same as Brunswick hipsters… Either way, they’re not that interesting.
There’s a lot of drinking in Cutting Teeth and a little bit of eating. The reference to corn on the cob won me. And Mexican-style corn on the cob wins me even more. I usually go to Mamasita for amazing corn but for cooking at home, try this recipe from The Seaside Baker.
I received my copy of Cutting Teeth from the publisher, St. Martin’s Press via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.
* If you want the details, I can be bribed with a gin and tonic.