52 in 52: Cutting Teeth, by Julia Fierro and GIVEAWAY!!!

[This review is based on an Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) digital edition published by published by St. Martin’s Press in 2014, and provided by NetGalley.]

Here’s the deal:
Nicole, Josh, and their son Wyatt make up one-fifth of a Brooklyn playgroup, and Nicole has invited the rest of the group to spend Labor Day weekend at her parents’ beach house on the Long Island Sound. The other families include Rip, Grace, and their son Hank; Tiffany, Michael, and their daughter Harper; Leigh, her absent husband Brad, and their children Chase and Charlotte; and newlyweds Susanna and Allie and their twin boys Levi and Dash. As is normal when such large groups of parents and children assemble for a weekend, lots of drama ensues, secrets are revealed, and friendships are damaged forever.

My thoughts:
Cutting Teeth, for me, is one of those really juicy reads you want to throw in your beach bag. Once you get to the beach, you take it out of the bag, start reading, and only stop when you realize you’ve been so “sucked in” that you stopped paying attention to anything else and you’ve developed a particularly nasty sunburn. Set a timer so you don’t forget to reapply your sunscreen, people!

Anyway, the main plots of Cutting Teeth revolve around the four playgroup mommies and the “token” daddy, Rip. Rip wants a second child which, due to his infertility, would require his wife to be inseminated with donor sperm. Knowing that Grace doesn’t want any more children makes the whole situation rather uncomfortable, and a cringe-worthy misunderstanding with one of the other fathers just makes things worse. I truly felt for Rip and for Susanna, whose wife Allie referred to herself as a “part-time mommy”. While Susanna gave up painting to have babies, Allie continued with her art and continues to prioritize it over her twin boys. Ouch. I still have trouble understanding how two people can have a baby with the knowledge that one really isn’t interested in parenthood, but I imagine it’s much more common than it should be. Another big parenthood issue at play here is that of teaching gender roles, as Hank wants to wear a princess dress with its matching tiara and heels. Grace thinks it’s a terrible idea, while Rip doesn’t; an incident involving Hank, another child, and makeup temporarily changes Rip’s mind on the issue before another incident leads to him changing it back. Where do you stand on gender roles?

Let’s keep in mind that there are three other playgroup mommies to discuss here! Leigh brings her special-needs son, Chase, and infant daughter Charlotte to the beach house, along with their nanny, Tenzin (a Buddhist hailing from Tibet). Leigh spends the whole weekend hiding a huge secret that, if revealed, will certainly land her in jail. She also struggles with the fact that her son is different from the other boys in the playgroup, which any parent could relate to. She seems to spend the most time away from the rest of the group, using the need to breastfeed Charlotte as an excuse, but it’s clear that she feels some kind of distance or even a little embarrassment toward Chase. Tenzin is like the beacon of light in all the negativity surrounding her — always there to take care of Chase, always showing Chase nothing but love, always reminding Leigh that she is a good person. She’s the one everyone should strive to emulate, regardless of her religious beliefs.

And now we reach the two mommies I liked the least. Nicole, a published author and sometimes professor, is the walking definition of an alarmist. She comes across an apocalyptic prediction online via Webbot and proceeds to pack emergency bags and freak out about howevery tiny occurrence will lead to the end of the world. The child beside her son on the park swings gives a wet cough, and she immediately assumes that Wyatt is going to become gravely ill and probably die. She stops taking her psychiatrist-prescribed medications, replacing them with marijuana (which she smokes in secret). She’s your classic basket case, and I hated her for most of the book. She has a redeeming moment near the end of the novel, and my distaste toward her lessened a bit…but I still didn’t like her.

Tiffany was my least-favorite mommy — in fact, if I’m being blunt I hate her. “White trash”, “social climber”…these are just a few of the cliches that come to mind for Tiffany. She previously worked as a nanny for a rich woman who taught her all about living decadently, and she channels that into driving her super-bossy preschooler daughter, Harper, toward private school. She had a standing offer for help from Leigh until she gets very drunk over the weekend and creates drama with everyone in the house. While the book as a whole is fabulous and full of interesting anecdotes and family excursions, this is easily the juiciest and most fun part of the book to read, in my humble opinion. The fallout leads to Leigh withdraw her offer (and rightfully so, in my opinion). Tiffany is the center of attention and the primary source of the weekend’s fireworks; all roads, it seems, lead to Tiffany. I couldn’t stand her and I was thrilled that she got the ending I felt she deserved. I hope you’ll agree with me. Read it and let me know!

So would I recommend this book?
Definitely! I feel that Cutting Teeth is especially good as a beach read or as a title for book clubs, and particularly for book clubs consisting of moms or of people who enjoy reading about mama-drama (or both!). This was a really fun read — I hope you’ll give it a look!

Cutting Teeth will be available for purchase on May 13, 2014, BUT you can enter to WIN a copy courtesy of St. Martin’s Press!!! Use the widget below to enter!!

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  • As far as assigning gender roles, I don’t get too caught up in it. I mean if I’m buying something for my son I buy him boy clothes and for my girl I buy her girl things. Now my daughter wears a number of boyish things (thank-you handmedowns). I buy my kids toys that appeal to them and what appeals to them tends to be thing in their same gender. Now my son will sit and play dolls, kitchen and ‘girl’ like games and my daughter will play rough and tumble, with cars/trucks and army guys. Sometimes alone sometimes with the other. I think gender types are what they are because the vast majority of children lean in that direction. If my child leaned in another direction we would allow them to be who they are.

  • Rhonda

    We have a son so really try to do our best trucks dolls whatever he wants.

  • Kate I.

    I’m not yet a parent, but I’d try to be gender-blind with my kids when it came to traditional roles. In my opinion, a guy should know what to do about a loose button and a woman should know what to do about a flat tire.

  • momssmallvictories

    I have 3 sons and we don’t assign a gender to the role. I am trying to teach them how to cook, do laundry, etc so they can be responsible men when they are on their own. We work hard and play hard together. I used to work full time until about a year ago so I think it’s good they saw me both as bread-earner and SAHM.

  • momssmallvictories

    Ok I should say, we don’t differentiate gender in work/play but I also don’t go out and buy my guys pink clothes. They don’t have a sister in the house, so it’s not very hard to steer clear of pink clothes. 🙂