“Lauren Grodstein breaks your heart, then miraculously pieces it back together so it’s bigger—and stronger—than before.” —Celeste Ng, author of Everything I Never Told You
How can a woman learn to let go of the people she loves the most?
Karen Neulander, a successful New York political consultant and single mother, has always been fiercely protective of her son, Jacob, now six. She’s had to be: when Jacob’s father, Dave, found out Karen was pregnant and made it clear that fatherhood wasn’t in his plans, Karen walked out of the relationship, never telling Dave her intention was to raise their child alone.
But now Jake is asking to meet his dad, and with good reason: Karen is dying. When she finally calls her ex, she’s shocked to find Dave ecstatic about the son he never knew he had. First, he can’t meet Jake fast enough, and then he can’t seem to leave him alone. Karen quickly grows anxious as she watches Dave insinuate himself into Jake’s life just as her own strength and hold on Jake grow more tenuous.
As she struggles to play out her last days in the “right” way for Jake, Karen wrestles with the knowledge that the only thing she cannot bring herself to do for her son—let his father become a permanent part of his life—is the thing he needs from her the most. With heart-wrenching poignancy, unexpected wit, and mordant humor, Lauren Grodstein has created an unforgettable story about parenthood, sacrifice, and life itself.
Karen Neulander has a rotten deal. Diagnosed with stage-IV ovarian cancer, she tries to manage her health surgeries and treatments to prolong her life as well as her career political consultant to a philandering New York City councilman running for reelection. Most important is her six-year-old son, Jake. While Jake knows she has a terminal illness, Karen fiercely protects his world and pens a book for him the very book we are reading, in fact so that she can leave him something tangible as a guide for his life without her. Knowing she won't be around forever, Jake suddenly wants to find his father, Dave, the love of Karen's life, who ditched her when he learned she was pregnant. Grodstein (A Friend of the Family) deftly explores family relationships, but the device of Karen writing a book for her son is cumbersome and artificial. The power of the book is also undermined by the sentimental circumstances and predictable ending: will Karen let Dave, who has changed and is eager to have a meaningful relationship with the son he never knew he had, be a part of her son's future without her?