In this situation comedy of a first novel, a beautiful but bitchy journalist undergoes a character transformation, thanks to some meddling from her long-dead mother.
After two years of not speaking to her family, Chicago newspaper columnist Shelby Lazarus rushes home to Long Island when her sister Lauren calls with the news that their father and stepmother have been struck by a motorist while jogging. The girls’ real mother (their stepmother’s sister no less) died when Shelby was ten, shortly after Shelby’s best—and only—friend Mattie moved away. Convinced that Mattie was the love of her life, despite the fact that the two were barely preadolescent when he left town, Shelby—at 38, a cold, snide, and all-round unpleasant woman—has never had a genuine romantic attachment. Lauren, on the other hand, is a nitwit who regularly flutters from one enthusiasm (including men) to another. Just now she desperately wants to become a mother. Problem is, she was a DES baby (a medical condition you’ll learn all about) and can’t conceive. So she asks Shelby to be her surrogate (surrogacy support info also included). After much hand-wringing (but no rational thought), Shelby agrees. And conceives twins. Almost immediately, Lauren’s chauvinist-pig Israeli husband Ari deserts Lauren, who then falls in love with a widowed dad who doesn’t want more babies. Meanwhile, the now-pregnant Shelby tracks down the elusive Mattie, who is married. But, hey, his wife is more unpleasant than Shelby and a Gentile, while his kid has Down’s syndrome and some other vague but fatal illness. The way to a happy ending seems pretty clear. Throughout, Shelby’s dead mother, whose belief that lives are predestined doesn’t stop her from trying to manipulate earthly events for her children’s sake, adds her running commentary.
The credibility-challenging plot twists, loose ends, and inconsistencies would be easier to swallow if the characters weren’t so thoroughly unlikable.