- S/ 44.90
“Masterly deftness, funny sentence by funny sentence...a moving and intricately braided story of two mothers.” —Jonathan Franzen, The Guardian
This “beguiling, addictive read” (People, Book of the Week) and Belletrist Book Club pick about a blue-blooded single mother raising her daughter in rarefied New York City is a “carefully observed family story [that] rings true to life” (The New York Times Book Review).
Laura hails from the Upper East Side of Manhattan, born into old money, drifting aimlessly into her early thirties. One weekend in 1981 she meets a man. The two sleep together. He vanishes. And Laura realizes she’s pregnant.
“Unputdownable” (Library Journal) and “wryly observed” (Vogue), Laura & Emma follows Laura as she raises Emma in New York City over the next fifteen years. With wit and compassion, Kate Greathead explores the many flaws and quirks that make us human. Laura’s story hosts a cast of effervescent and original characters, including her eccentric mother, who informs her society friends and Emma herself that she was fathered by a Swedish sperm donor; her brother, whose childhood stutter reappears in the presence of their forbidding father; an exceptionally kind male pediatrician; and her overbearing best friend, whose life has followed the Park Avenue script in every way except for childbearing.
“Kate Greathead’s debut novel gamely takes on class conflict, single motherhood, and the discreet pretension of the 1980s Upper East Side” (New York magazine) and is a “layered story about mothers and daughters and identity” (Entertainment Weekly). Told in vignettes whose every “restrained and understated sentence has been polished to glittering brightness” (Vox), Laura & Emma is “an incisive comedy of manners about class divides and the ‘burdens’ of being born privileged” (Esquire) and “a thoughtful novel of trying to find oneself despite an assigned place in the world” (Publishers Weekly).
In Greathead's warmhearted debut novel, spanning 1980 to 1995, Laura, a quiet woman in her early 30s from Manhattan's Upper East Side, attempts to balance her progressive ideals with the lavish lifestyle she lives thanks to a trust fund. After a one-night stand with her brother's friend leads to pregnancy, Laura tries to forge a life for herself and her daughter, Emma, on her own terms while also staying near home and accepting the help of her old-money family. The supporting characters who come in and out of Laura's life over the years sparkle with idiosyncrasies, especially Laura's mother, Bibs, and Emma's devoted pediatrician. The novel is told in short scenes; major events can happen off the page, as with the death of a loved one, which is revealed by a scene set at the reception held after the funeral. Greathead is a talented writer of detail, particularly in her evocations of New York life subway sobbing, could-be celebrity sightings, the joy of a favorite grocery store and specifically of New York's elite board meetings, private preschool admissions, "the impermeable serenity of a Manhattan courtyard," and the specific difference between an address on 96th and Park and 96th and Lexington. This is a thoughtful novel of trying to find oneself despite an assigned place in the world.