Review: The Smart One

Posted 1 April, 2013 by Lianne in Books / 0 Comments

The Smart One
By: Jennifer Close
Source: e-galley, courtesy of the publisher from NetGalley

Weezy and Will Coffey raised their children, Martha, Claire, and Max, to be kind, smart and independent. They helped with their homework, bought them a dog, and baked them homemade birthday cakes. It’s true that Martha’s a little too sensitive–she calls Claire several times a week to discuss natural disasters and local crime. And Claire has a short fuse with her sister–she becomes irate when Martha suggests that the two of them attend couples therapy. And Max, the baby and a senior in college, is a little too happy-go-lucky, though not as lucky as everyone would hope. Still, their parents did their best preparing them for the world. So why, Weezy wonders, is Martha living in her childhood bedroom after a career flameout? And why has Claire canceled her wedding and locked herself in her New York apartment? And how has Max managed to get himself into a girlfriend fiasco?

I found out about this book a few weeks ago on GoodReads; Random House of Canada gave it a stellar review and I’ve always enjoyed novels focusing on family and those family bonds so I was curious about this book. I was fortunate to have been approved for a review copy of this novel from NetGalley.

The Smart One is a wonderful story about the Coffeys’ (and, by extension, those connected to them: relatives, girlfriends, best friends, friends from high school, colleagues) and the ups and downs in their lives. The novel starts with Martha and Claire at a low point in their lives, professionally and personally, which results in them moving back home and their mother naturally overly concerned for them. Max’s story comes in later, and is told though his girlfriend Cleo’s point of view, which is interesting since the other three POVs are from the female Coffeys. The novel covers the span of a year, highlighting various family occasions and fiascos and how much things can change in a year.

Each chapter by each POV is absolutely wonderful, drawing the readers into the lives of this family and the perspective of each character in focus. The author does a fantastic job is really bring their perspectives to life, understand what it means to be a mother worrying for her children long after her children had left home, what it’s like to be an absolute low psychologically. Through Cleo’s perspective the reader gains an outsider’s take on the Coffeys and how much they differ from other families; sometimes the perspective differs from what the family members think and feel at the time but that’s one of the beauties of this novel, the fact that perspectives and interpretations of events differ. Each character is well-rounded with their strengths and weaknesses; sometimes you’d feel frustrated with one character and his or her stubbornness but by the next page you’d feel completely sympathetic and understanding of their plight.

The book’s also a gem because of its take on life; on a personal level I understood the obstacles and issues that Martha and Claire were particularly struggling with because they are in the same age group as me. But all of the challenges before them and the issues and situations that Weezy finds herself thinking and dealing with, it left me appreciative about how the best thing we can do is keep moving forward with the people we love when life goes off the rails into the unexpected.

The Smart One is a lyrical and poignant novel about life, family and growing up. It’s amusing, it’s frustrating (like family can be at times), it’s ultimately endearing; I was sad when I reached the last page of the novel because I wanted to continue hanging out with the Coffeys. I highly recommend this novel to anyone looking for something new to read.

Rating: ★★★★★

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