Editor stares down 35 and societal pressure to reproduce in Giffin’s underachieving third (Something Blue, 2005, etc.).
It’s love at first date when motherhood-averse Claudia meets architect Ben, who seconds her dislike of (1) eating at TGI Fridays; (2) leaving Manhattan; and (3) having kids. They marry and revel in childfree-freedom, resisting the benign cajolery of his nurturing family. After all, they have her relatives to serve as advertisements for childlessness: Claudia’s narcissistic mother and feckless father; fecund Maura with the philandering husband; and fertility-challenged Daphne. But when the couple’s best friends procreate, and Claudia’s egg-aging watershed of age 35 looms, Ben has second thoughts about fatherhood. This leads to many pages of attempted relationship renegotiation, until finally Claudia divorces Ben and flees back to her former roommate, investment banker Jess. Claudia puzzles over Ben’s about-face, Jess has a pregnancy scare with her married lover Trey, and Claudia beds Richard, her boss at Elgin Press. Fleeting Ben sightings and Googling reveal that he’s found a new running partner with great hair, an ER physician named Tucker. The turning point occurs when Richard and Claudia jet off to Italy and he gives her a semi-precious right-hand ring, an objective correlative for “they’re just not that into each other.” Claudia realizes that she just might do anything to get Ben back, even something maternity-related. When her distracted babysitting lands niece Zoe in the ER for stitches, Tucker appears flaunting a wholly precious left-hand ring. The other baby shoe drops in an unpredictable-enough way, with a deft allusion to “Gift of the Magi,” but the novel ducks every challenge it poses for itself. (And some it doesn’t, like finding a simile for “attractive” besides “hot.”) The characters, puppets of the plot’s contrivances, dance around the central question: Is there something wrong with a woman who chooses to forego motherhood?
Fewer punches pulled might have made this a knockout.