THE SMART ONE by Jennifer Close


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Close, whose first novel (Girls in White Dresses, 2011) romped with recent college grads newly on their own, focuses here on two sisters on the cusp of 30, both torn between independent womanhood and lingering dependence on parents.

Claire Coffey has no investment in her nondescript (as in never described) job at an unnamed nonprofit, no social life now that her engagement has been broken by mutual consent, and a negative cash flow now that her ex-fiance has moved out of their shared Manhattan apartment. The only way she sees out of her debt is to move back in with her parents in Philadelphia: supermaternal Weezy and slightly removed Will (Close’s men never rise above sketches). Claire’s sister Martha, older by less than a year, is already there. She has lived at home and seen an increasingly frustrated therapist ever since having a breakdown during her first job as a certified nurse years ago. Soon, Claire has a dull temp job and a guy to hook up with: her hottie crush in high school, who conveniently just got dumped by his fiancee and is living with his parents too. An insecure underachiever, Claire is the typical cute, witty heroine readers know will land on her feet. But less attractive, i.e. slightly overweight, Martha, who has always been needy and socially off-kilter, steals the novel. After years managing a J.Crew, she has taken a first step back toward nursing with a job as an elderly man’s caregiver, but whether she’ll take a second step remains questionable. The friction between the sisters is palpable and real. Less believable is the subplot concerning younger brother Max, who moves home with his gorgeous, sensitive but very pregnant college girlfriend, Cleo; Close evades explaining why they decide to have the baby. Nothing unexpected happens, but the novel sings in the small moments when its women express uncomfortable truths, undercurrents of sibling resentment and parental disappointment, which usually remain unspoken.

An unassuming but far from vacuous domestic comedy, perfect for the beach or a long plane trip.

Pub Date: April 5th, 2013
ISBN: 978-0-307-59686-4
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Knopf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 2013


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