In Martin’s debut novel, a woman moves cross-country to a small New England town with her husband and kids and finds herself struggling to fit in.
Melody Farrell is a Californian to her core. She’s a share-everything, no-holds-barred woman who would rather talk about rock bands than the weather. But her husband, Zack Bender, works in the financial sector and gets a job offer to move to Pebble Bay, a magazine-perfect suburban town in Massachusetts. Zack hits it off great with his colleagues and the polite, guarded residents of their new hometown. Their two toddlers have a blast with the neighborhood children. But Melody makes faux pas after faux pas: she wants dessert when other mothers barely touch a salad; she gets out for occasional walks while other mothers, who seemingly have perfect bodies, go for daily runs. Each day, it seems, Melody insults someone else and burns another bridge. As the pressure to fit in builds, so does her anger and isolation, and she starts to worry that Zack will leave her for someone more socially acceptable. Martin opens the story with an outburst from Melody and a heaping portion of humor: “Here lies Melody. She shouldn’t have said that,” Melody thinks to herself. Throughout, Martin’s protagonist makes for a brilliant narrator, as she views her mistakes with laughter as well as anxiety, which makes her human and relatable. As the novel progresses, even the initially cookie-cutter New England housewives take on distinct personalities as the author reveals them to be flawed in intricate ways. Along the way, the novel breaks down stereotypes and barriers even as it pokes fun at people of both coasts. Everyone is caught up in their own lives and the struggle for community, and everyone can be laughable, ignorant, and arrogant by turns. This novel isn’t about rebelling against small-town life or the drudgery of conformity; instead, it offers a story in which love, empathy, and family prevail, no matter which coast one calls home.
A frequently funny novel driven by a rebellious lead and strengthened by heartfelt emotion.