While Jennifer Weiner is categorized as a Chick Lit author, the stigma associated with the genre is definitely challenged by books such as this one. “To refer to Weiner’s book as Chick Lit is similar to calling Todd English a fast food restaurant owner. What both of these talented individuals have in common is the ability to create wonderful pieces of work that are sometimes taken for granted because they reach such a wide audience and make it look effortless.”
Little Earthquakes is of the Chick Lit genre in that it’s a book by a woman about women that is aimed at women. The book “introduces us to four women who meet at a yoga class for expectant mothers. Becky is a chef who has an extremely loving relationship with her husband and an interfering mother-in-law who insists on trying to change everything about her. Kelly is an overachieving event planner who had a poor childhood and has since become intent on giving her own child a better life. Unfortunately, her newly unemployed husband isn’t living up to her ideals. Ayinde, a beautiful television reporter who is married to a professional athlete, has her life turned upside down because of her husband’s act of indiscretion. Finally there is Lia, a somewhat mysterious character who hides a heartbreaking secret involving her own brief experience of motherhood while bonding with the new mothers. Each of these women must struggle with the challenges of being new moms while at the same time balancing all of the other areas in their lives. They realize that becoming a new mother changes one’s sense of self and one’s relationships with others.”
However, if you define Chick Lit as having “an airy, irreverent tone and frank sexual themes”, then you are in for a major disappointment. The story is definitely not airy and the tone, while light-hearted at times and humorous at others, is definitely not irreverent. It could have easily become so, as the four main characters become close friends, get embroiled in complicated situations and have conversations that are deeper and deeper. But Jennifer Weiner stuck to a brand of friendship that isn’t based on shoes and shopping, but rather on the character forming challenges of motherhood and those little traumatic obstacles of life such as unemployment and infidelity.
The character development is so deep one almost expects a full psychological review (and I’m certain a professional would have more than enough information from this story to develop four full profiles). But the book reads like anything but a medical chart.
And while the richness of the book is in large part due to this amazing character development, it is also in large part due to Jennifer Weiner’s particular brand of humor, which she injects throughout the entire story. Interestingly enough, her characters do not become four aspects of her own personality, but remain four distinct and very different women.
These differences aren’t limited to their background or their current situation; they are also very present when it comes to their attitude towards mothering. Lia and Ayinde are in between the two extremes portrayed by Becky’s extremely laid-back attitude and Kelly’s over controlling one. Ayinde struggles with her mother’s old school attitude towards parenting while Lia is nursing deep guilt over what happened to her son. Jennifer Weiner never presents any form of judgment towards any of these women, rather bringing out the positive and negative of each attitude, and focusing on her exploration of “the power of love and self-acceptance in overcoming life’s obstacles. Her characters confront harshness and unhappiness with humor and self-confidence. They experience success without changing the essence of who they are and without subjugating their beliefs. Weiner has written a touching novel with wonderful characters and honest lessons about living a less than perfect life. (…) Little Earthquakes explores motherhood, friendship, marriage, loss, devastation, forgiveness and love. This is women’s fiction at its best.”
I was thinking about what makes Jennifer Weiner’s books so amazing, and I couldn’t quite put it in words. This in itself is ironic, since someone who blogs technically should be good with words. Anyhow! Thankfully, not all reviewers out there lack the savvy to do so, and here is the one description I love: “How does Weiner create such wonderful fiction time and time again? She pulls her readers into the world she has created and allows them to experience this world for themselves. She gives her characters difficult struggles and flaws. Weiner writes so vividly and creates such real human emotion through her words that she makes her readers truly care about the lives of her characters. (…) What is so wonderful about Weiner’s work is that she gives her characters undying hope, no matter how unfortunate their circumstances may be. Through her characters’ faith and persistence she creates happy endings that often can be difficult to find in fiction today.”
At the risk of sounding terribly cliché, the characters in this book are so real that they seem to leap out of the pages. Sometimes, especially on days when I’m tired and I haven’t had my morning coffee, I remain convinced that I know these women rather than having read about them. They are terribly human, full of flaws and strengths, are women we could look up to without being picture the perfect, pre-packaged superwomen we are often told to somehow emulate.
Which brings me to one of the other great things about this story is that the ending: “isn’t happily ever after, but there is the feeling that these women are all better equipped to manage their lives than they were at the beginning of the book.” This makes the characters are the more real and, at the same time, all the more endearing.
Another great thing about being a Jennifer Weiner fan is that it doesn’t stop at her books; she also has a blog which, as opposed to some of the other blogs by authors out there, is quite entertaining and refreshing in itself. I would even consider publishing a collection of her best posts, that’s how great her blog is.
“In her blog, she often discusses publishing foibles and challenges, her upcoming events (or her past events and how they went), and all-too-rare mentions of her children. But where her blog really shines is when she unleashes her considerable wit and irony on the publishing industry at large. Because she’s a female novelist whose books often have pink covers (these are her words), she is cast into the category called ‘chick lit’. She both bemoans this fact but also embraces it, because so many women authors are labeled with this rather dismissive term. She often mentions books she’s reading, and authors she loves. She discusses the hypocrisy of book reviewers, and gently admonishes other writers for their egos (particularly those authors that both court attention and revile it). Reading her blog can often feel like a ring-side seat into the deep, dark world of book publishing and all that goes on there. When I keep up with her blog, I feel much more connected to the world of publishing–even though I don’t yet have a book to publish.”
Jennifer Weiner published Little Earthquakes in 2004; her first book, Good in Bed, was published in 2001. In her Shoes was published in 2002 and is now a motion picture starting Cameron Diaz. She continued with Goodnight Nobody (2005), The Guy not Taken (2006) and Certain Girls (2008). There are more than 9 million copies of her books in print in 36 countries. Of all her books, only one was disappointing (Certain Girls); all the others were absolutely wonderful, and for a relaxing, easy, entertaining and inspiring read, I recommend them all – but do start with Little Earthquakes.
First published on Sahar’s Blog on 12 October 2008.