This dour take on class and immigration from Simpson (Off Keck Road, 2001, etc.) focuses on a circle of wealthy Hollywood families and the nannies who care for their spoiled children.
Classical composer Claire moves with husband Paul and new baby William to Los Angeles where Paul pursues his dream to become a sitcom writer. Unable to concentrate on her music, Claire resents carrying most of the responsibility for William. Although she declares her maternal love frequently, readers don’t see much evidence. After Paul’s mother suggests she hire live-in help so she can work, Claire, whose carelessness as a parent grows only more mind-boggling as the novel progresses, finds Lola sitting on a park bench and hires her. Claire, or rather William, has lucked out. Lola had a comfortably middle-class life in the Philippines—a husband working as an illustrator for Hallmark, a house in the suburbs, her kids in a good school where she was President of the Parents Association—but she has come to the States to earn her children’s way through university and graduate school. While Claire is never comfortable with the parents of William’s friends, Lola quickly becomes the unspoken leader of the mostly Filipino nannies who care for them. William is a difficult child with limited social skills, but Lola loves him. She turns down a job offer from another family, sacrificing a significant raise in pay, only to be fired by Claire at the recommendation of William’s kindergarten teacher. Claire soon realizes she made a mistake, but Lola has already moved on to care for Laura, the possibly brain-damaged daughter of a single working mother, whose love and need for Lola is deeper than William’s.
Simpson trades chapters between Claire and Lola’s viewpoints, but Claire never becomes Lola’s equal, as a character or as a human being.