A debut novel offers a coming-of-age tale about surviving motherhood, finding independence, and living life on one’s own terms.
Life isn’t working out quite the way that Mia Love planned: “Here I was twenty-six years old with no husband, no money, no plan, a dead-end job, no degree, and a newborn baby.” After falling head over heels with Spence "Spider" Snyder in high school, Mia spent the next 10 years devoted to him, dropping out of college and working as a debt collector to support his budding music career. Now they’re living in a roach-infested tenement with their baby, Tee-Bo, and Mia’s crushed dreams of marriage dangling over their heads. In a fairly believable turn of events, Mia finds a letter from a life insurance company while housesitting for Spider’s mother, Dr. Snyder. It turns out that his mother has been withholding information about the insurance bonanza ($50,000) she collected after the death of Spider’s father. Mia’s discovery throws all their relationships into chaos. Snyder is furious over Mia’s breach of trust, and Mia copes with pressure from a critical mother and loudmouthed sister who both think she should dump Spider if he doesn’t wed her on the spot. Mia grows weary of supporting Spider despite his windfall and suspects that he has been unfaithful, while he is threatened by Mia’s longtime best friend, Romell. That relationship has always been platonic, but Romell’s financial success and Mia’s frustration with Spider threaten to complicate the situation. Meanwhile, Tee-Bo has an inexplicable skin condition that has everyone questioning Mia’s ability to take care of her son. Though it’s set in 1995 New York City—a world of pagers, Walkmans, and computers that require disks—Mia’s story is eminently relatable. She valiantly tries to please everyone around her (at times, her insistence on doing everything herself becomes ridiculous, as when she sets out to spend the dregs of her savings to buy Tee-Bo a crib instead of accepting offers from Romell or her mother to buy it for her). But she ends up realizing that sometimes she does have to put herself first. Though the charming novel is longer than it needs to be and meanders, Watts-Hicks’ prose is highly readable and Mia’s evolution is rewarding.
A sweet, albeit rambling, family story.