The daughter’s side of the story, told in parallel with her mother’s, fills in the gaps in a smart, soft-centered, strung-out tale of parental stand-off and reconciliation.
Striving to be Teflon-coated, Zen Mama (“delayed-adolescence annoyance and college jitters expressed as bitchiness slide right off Zen Mama”) is more often seen simply as the “boob-whispering (i.e. lactation consultant) ex-wife of a cult bigwig.” Bird’s (How Perfect is That, 2008, etc.) stressed-out central character, aka Cam Lightsey, is a heaving mass of anxiety and guilt. Her daughter Aubrey has gone missing on her 18th birthday, the day the pair are supposed to go to the bank to clear the trust fund laid down by ex-husband Martin for Aubrey’s first-year college fees. The reasons for the disappearance, which have developed secretly during the preceding 12 months and involve a football jock and ambitions at odds with Cam’s, are chronicled in alternating chapters swapping Aubrey’s sulky teen point-of-view with Cam’s sassy, self-deprecatingly–voiced account of meeting Martin in Morocco, loving him, losing him to the cult of Next and stranding herself in the suburbs as a working single mom for Aubrey’s sake. Bird’s snappy style compensates in part for a slender story with too many cliffhanging chapter ends, but it doesn’t excuse the fairy-tale ending.
Disappointing. Wit and feistiness collapse into cotton candy.