Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Book Review: Cutting Teeth by Julia Fierro

From the back of the book: One of the most anticipated debut novels of 2014, Cutting Teeth takes place one late-summer weekend as a group of thirty-something couples gather at a shabby beach house on Long Island, their young children in tow.

Nicole, the hostess, struggles to keep her OCD behaviors unnoticed. Stay-at-home dad Rip grapples with the reality that his careerist wife will likely deny him a second child, forcing him to disrupt the life he loves. Allie, one half of a two-mom family, can't stop imagining ditching her wife and kids in favor of her art. Tiffany, comfortable with her amazing body but not so comfortable in the upper-middle class world the other characters were born into, flirts dangerously, and spars with her best friend Leigh, a blue blood secretly facing financial ruin and dependent on the magical Tibetan nanny everyone else covets. Throughout the weekend, conflicts intensify and painful truths surface. Friendships and alliances crack, forcing the house party to confront a new order. Cutting Teeth is about the complex dilemmas of early midlife—the vicissitudes of friendship, of romantic and familial love, and of sex. It’s about class tension, status hunger, and the unease of being in possession of life's greatest bounty while still wondering, is this as good as it gets? And, perhaps most of all, Julia Fierro’s warm and unpretentious debut explores the all-consuming love we feel for those we need most, and the sacrifice and compromise that underpins that love.
If I had to sum up Julia Fierro's debut novel in five words or less, I would only need two: dysfunction junction. Cutting Teeth follows the lives of several privileged upper class families in New York, connected only by the fact that they have joined together as part of a playgroup. At times, the characters felt like hyperboles--every character was high-drama, super complex, and every character had some unique issue that they brought to the table, children included. There was not a boring or "normal" person in the bunch.

The lifestyle of the characters was so far beyond anything that I could even imagine, and so the characters weren't exactly relatable to me, but instead it felt a bit voyeuristic. We got to watch all these independently dysfunctional people come together with their own baggage, issues, and secret agendas. And then we go watch them interact. Sometimes, it was lovely. Sometimes, I felt so sad for the characters to be in a support group that really didn't offer anything in terms of support at all. Fierro didn't pull any punches--as the reader, we see all the secret thoughts and motivations that the characters most likely wouldn't reveal even to their best friends, and so it absolutely felt like a peek into a secret world, without the superficial pleasantries that you'd normally see as an outsider looking in. 

Cutting Teeth was at times hilarious, though the humor was often dark. It was sad. It felt honest. It was definitely dysfunctional. It's written with multiple narrators, which sometimes works and sometimes doesn't. In this case, I think it absolutely does, which is definitely a credit to the author's talent. Julia Fierro really is a fantastic writer, especially when it comes to character development. In this case, she crafted each character's personality and expectations with such care that I found myself really caring about people that at times, I didn't actually even like. 

Cutting Teeth will be released on May 13th, and I could absolutely see it becoming the sleeper hit of the summer, if not a fantastic movie or HBO series as well.


 Disclosure: I received an advance copy of Cutting Teeth for review through Net Galley. I did not receive any further compensation for this review, and all thoughts and opinions are my own. You all should know by now that I couldn't lie about a book even if I wanted to :)

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