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Substitute Me

A book by Lori Tharps

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Nanny vs. Mommy in Brooklyn

  • Aug 24, 2010
Spoilers, Substitute Me alternates points of view among Zora Anderson, a 30-year-old black woman who, after living in Paris, decides to take a job as a nanny to a white family--something she knows would horrify her parents and brother, and Kate Carter, publicist, wife of Brad and mother of Oliver. I don't want to give too much away but I can say that while the alternating viewpoints are interesting, Kate seemed to be deliberately painted as clueless, culturally insensitive, myopic and out for herself. I opened the book and immediately wondered, on page one, whether Zora was named after Zora Neale Hurston (she is), so was pretty shocked that a liberal Brooklyn-dwelling married white woman would never have at least heard of the famous author.

Kate is, in many ways, painted as extremely uptight; she doesn't get her husband's interest in comic books, and dismisses them. She is very much the harried working mother, except without so much of the harriedness because she has Zora to take care of her son and cook for her. I found the drama here compelling and a quick read, and the exploration of the Park Slope and Fort Greene neighborhoods of Brooklyn detailed and interesting, but there were some things that Zora wound up doing that seemed too sudden for my taste, that hadn't been built up enough. The action seemed sudden and I wasn't really sure where Zora's motivation was coming from.

What I liked best about the book was that Zora pursued her own path that didn't conform to what a lot of people, including her boyfriend, would've wanted for her. While she and Kate alternated chapters, Zora's seemed like the more vibrant life, perhaps because Kate was so prickly and seemingly sheltered and self-centered. It's interesting that even though one could argue Zora is the least sympathetic character, I felt more sympathy with her than with Kate (and their final confrontation at the end is a powerful one). This is definitely a novel that will spark lots of discussion about parenting, nannies, infidelity, race, class, and how women balance work and family/love interests.

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Rachel Kramer Bussel ()
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Member Since: Feb 19, 2009
Last Login: Aug 26, 2010 04:25 PM UTC
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“A great read! I can only imagine the discussions this novel will stimulate in book clubs.” —Kathleen Grissom, author ofThe Kitchen House

“With a perceptive and honest eye, Lori Tharps delivers a compelling story that eases us into the heart of a family. But, just as we settle in, we learn that all is not as it appears. Suspense follows, for we know the solution to the unfolding dilemma cannot come without pain.” —Kathleen Grissom, author ofThe Kitchen House

“Book clubs:Substitute Mewill give you so much to talk, laugh and argue about, you might want to schedule two meetings to discuss it. Days after finishing it, I'm still debating who the villain is. Lori Tharps has written a timely, engaging page-turner that every working mom in America should read!” —Carleen Brice, author ofChildren of the Waters

“Lori Tharps’s warm and engaging novel about the struggles of juggling marriage, motherhood and a meaningful career focuses on a story we’re each living, but also exposes the secrets we won’t tell. An enjoyable read.” —Heidi Durrow, author ofThe Girl Who Fell from the Sky

A fresh, fun, view of "the help" from a writer to watch. -- Benilde Little, author ofGood Hair
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ISBN-10: 1439171106
ISBN-13: 978-1439171103
Author: Lori Tharps
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Atria
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"Nanny vs. Mommy in Brooklyn"
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