A New Yorker’s move to the South generates life lessons, and far too many platitudes, in Fishman’s (Saving Ruth, 2012, etc.) third novel.
Sarah, 36, doesn’t mind moving from Brooklyn to Virginia, trailing her husband, Josh, who's been offered a professorship. She's burned out on her high-powered marketing job at a cosmetics firm; her snide, short-tempered boss; and her tiny walk-up apartment. Perhaps living in suburban Farmwood will help her come to grips with life’s burning questions: What next? What was she put on this earth to do? Now that she has time off work, but limited time left on her biological clock, should she and Josh procreate before it's too late? For a while, this seems to be a fish-out-of-water Manhattan transplant story: Living in a public-transportation desert, Sarah needs to overcome her fear of driving, and she needs to get out of the house. At Farmwood’s closest approximation of a shopping district (a tacky strip mall), she finds a job at a kitschy costume-jewelry shop, Bauble Head. And she takes driving lessons from a man in a mouse-mobile. (Don’t ask.) Before these veins of potential humor can be tapped, though, Sarah's back in Brooklyn, nursing her best friend, Mona, who has cancer and must undergo a hysterectomy. Mona is worried that her new boyfriend, Nate, will flee when Mona tells him she can't have kids. While Mona has carpe diem, pre-surgery sex with Nate, Sarah babysits for Josh’s brother Ben and his wife. Ignoring both the chaos introduced by her newborn nephew’s arrival and her sister-in-law’s graphic warnings about labor, Sarah loses all her reservations about motherhood—never convincingly portrayed—as soon as her period is delayed. Any conflict is further dulled by endless stretches of preachy dialogue as the characters discuss, but never seriously debate, assorted parenthood issues.
What begins as a witty critique of the Mommy Trap ends as a sanctimonious screed.