quote The Smart One: Jennifer Close

The Coffey siblings are falling apart in their own different ways. Martha has been signed off from her nursing job and is spending her days folding sweatshirts at J Crew while Claire is lying awake at night, thinking about how many days she has left in her apartment before the landlord kicks her out for failing to pay rent. Her fiancé Doug has just departed and taken half the furniture with him, so things are looking sort of bleak. Their little brother Max has managed to get himself a very attractive girlfriend named Cleo, but when she falls pregnant while they are both still at college, the couple are suddenly faced with quite a dilemma.

The heart of this novel is the Coffey family home, run by their mother Weezy, who has a desperate desire to bring all her children together under one roof. It may not be quite the beach house reunion she has hoped for when Claire announces that she’s broke and Max explains that he’s going to be a father, but still – at least they’re there. Going back to sharing a bathroom with your siblings when you’re in your twenties and thirties has it’s own separate issues, and Close perfectly captures the feelings of claustrophobia and regression combined with the idea that being around your family can sometimes be (shock) quite nice.

The chapters switch between perspectives (this is a technique that I personally really like, but it’s not for everyone) – and I enjoyed spending time with Claire the most. Jennifer Close writes very well about the slightly depressed, lethargic feelings we all sometimes have, especially at a certain age, and I think you’ll enjoy this book more if you’re going through a similar kind of experience. Moving back home as an ‘adult’ is a very topical issue in recent years – http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/family-demography/young-adults-living-with-parents/2013/sty-young-adults.html – and Claire’s move back from the big city to a place where the neighbour’s movements are hot gossip is really well done.

The book touches on romance, but I would say the main focus points are family and to some extent career. It is all about figuring out what you want from your life, and Close peppers the text with great quotes that really resonate: “I just think you can’t be so quick to be so sure of other people’s situations. Examine your own situation. You also have a lot of choices. It’s not always easier for other people. It doesn’t work like that.”

“She’d spent years working at places that were just a job and it didn’t make it easier that you didn’t care about it. If anything, it made it harder.”

“This is your life. You’re the one that has to live with the decision you make, not anyone else. Just remember that. What you do in life is yours and it doesn’t matter what other people want from you.”

Take heed, people! I’d also very much recommend Jennifer Close’s first book, Girls in White Dresses  – both books have a Girls-esque feel about them but Close is a little less sex-oriented than Lena Dunham, a bit more family focussed and sarcastically introspective. You’ll want more from her by the time you’ve finished reading.

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