Zora Anderson is a 30-year-old African American middle class, college educated woman, trained as a chef, looking for a job. As fate would have it, Kate and Craig, a married couple, aspiring professionals with a young child are looking for a nanny.
Zora seems perfect. She’s an enthusiastic caretaker, a competent house keeper, a great cook. And she wants the job, despite the fact that she won’t let her African American parents and brother know anything about this new career move. They expect much more from her than to use all that good education to do what so many Blacks have dreamed of not doing: working for White folks. Working as an au pair in Paris, France no less, was one thing, they could accept that. Being a servant to a couple not much older nor more educated, is yet another. Every adult character involved in this tangled web is hiding something: the husband is hiding his desire to turn a passion for comic books into a business from his wife, the wife is hiding her professional ambitions from her husband, the nanny is hiding her job from her family and maybe her motivations for staying on her job from herself.
Memorable characters, real-life tensions and concerns and the charming—in a hip kind of way—modern-day Park Slope, Fort Greene, Brooklyn setting make for an un-put-down-able read.
Memoirist Tharps's debut novel contrasts the lives of two polar-opposite women living in New York City with likable characters but common prose. Kate Carter is successful, white, and married. She hires Zora Anderson, a 30-year-old black woman, to nanny her infant son Oliver. While both women are from privileged backgrounds, their lives have taken divergent paths. Zora is still trying to figure out what to do with her life, and uncertainty over her nanny position, especially in light of her successful corporate-lawyer brother, wealthy parents, and awareness of "mammy" stereotypes, cause her great uncertainty. Kate's husband, Brad, becomes Zora's friend and confidante, encouraging her to pursue her passion for cooking and reconnect with her family. As Kate becomes busier at work, Zora and Brad grow inevitably more attracted to one another. This unsurprising turn is the book's major downfall, but the issues of race and relationships that Tharps extracts from the situation largely make up for it. While Tharps's prose leaves something to be desired, the reader is left to ruminate on some real questions concerning the modern family, and can draw on authentic characters to put a face on an otherwise abstract predicament. \n