Sunday, May 13, 2012

Review: Then Came You by Jennifer Weiner


 Reviewed by Christina
[I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.] 

Published: 2011

It's about:  In this newest novel from the most famous of Chick Lit authors, Jennifer Weiner weaves together the stories of four women:  Jules, a Princeton-educated egg donor; Annie, a working class SAHM surrogate; India, a  newly wealthy infertile woman who wants to start a family; and Bettina, India's suspicious step-daughter.
 Each of these women (with the exception of Bettina) hope that reproductive technology will change their lives for the better.  But, of course, things don't work out according to plan. 

I thought: (First, a little sidenote:  I requested this book from the publisher because it came up when I was searching for books about surrogacy.  I'm a surrogate myself, currently carrying twins for a French couple whom I love.  I'm interested in seeing/reading everything I can about the subject and would love recommendations!)

So this is Chick Lit!  I have to admit, I thought this was an engaging, decently-written work of fiction.  I can see why Jennifer Weiner is so popular.  She has a keen ear for dialogue, and her characters' emotions, relationships, and reactions to one another ring very true.  Honestly, reading Then Came You was a pretty seamless experience; it was a lot like reading a movie. 

Would I call this "literary"?  Not in a million years.  None of the four first-person narrators has a distinct voice; I couldn't tell a difference between the Vassar and Princeton-educated women and the ones who barely finished high school.  There's no imagery, no style, no overarching theme that I noticed.  Then Came You has some important issues woven into the story (addiction, the ethics of surrogacy and class differences) but nothing developed enough to constitute a unifying purpose. 

On a micro level, a few things annoyed me.  The children's dialogue was developmentally incorrect: a three-year-old who doesn't put two words together, a five-year-old who requests a snack by saying one word rather than a sentence.  Reading this, I assumed Ms. Weiner had no children, but it turns out she does have two young daughters.  So I'm not sure what happened with the sloppy kid dialogue in this book.  Also, the surrogate payment in the book ($50,000!) is grossly inflated.  Do a google search.  No agency advertises that much; it's nearly double the going rate at the very well-established agency I'm working with.  This kind of thing just irritates me because I think it fuels the flames for people who think surrogates are "just doing it for the money."  I also tired of the YA-esque physical descriptions of the characters.  What color is "nut brown?"  That does nothing for me.

BUT one thing I loved, that is almost enough to make me recommend Then Came You to my friends and family: Jennifer Weiner nailed people's various reactions to surrogacy.  Some people think it's freakish, or a sin ("playing God"), some people think it's exploitative (including the author) and some people think it's glorified prostitution.  All of these points of view were represented in the text, and I appreciated that.  Then they're all balanced out by a fair portrayal of motherhood in the warm and fuzzy final chapter.

Verdict: In-between.

Reading Recommendations: Good beach or airplane read- Quick and engaging, but nothing too intellectually or emotionally taxing.

Warnings: descriptive sex, a few swears

What I'm reading nextThe Center Cannot Hold by Elyn R. Sacks