Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Review: Then Came You

Summary: An unexpected love story…

Jules Strauss is a Princeton senior with a full scholarship, acquaintances instead of friends, and a family she's ashamed to invite to Parents' Weekend. With the income she'll receive from donating her "pedigree" eggs, she believes she can save her father from addiction.

Annie Barrow married her high school sweetheart and became the mother to two boys. After years of staying at home and struggling to support four people on her husband's salary, she thinks she's found a way to recover a sense of purpose and bring in some extra cash.

India Bishop, thirty-eight (really forty-three), has changed everything about herself: her name, her face, her past. In New York City, she falls for a wealthy older man, Marcus Croft, and decides a baby will ensure a happy ending. When her attempts at pregnancy fail, she turns to technology, and Annie and Jules, to help make her dreams come true.

But each of their plans is thrown into disarray when Marcus' daughter Bettina, intent on protecting her father, becomes convinced that his new wife is not what she seems…

With startling tenderness and laugh-out-loud humor, Jennifer Weiner once again takes readers into the heart of women's lives in an unforgettable, timely tale that interweaves themes of class and entitlement, surrogacy and donorship, the rights of a parent and the measure of motherhood. -- Atria

I would have to say that Jennifer Weiner is on my list of must-read authors -- I love how she portrays female relationships as well as the humor she infuses into her stories. In fact, I think I've read every novel that she's written. So when her latest one THEN CAME YOU arrived on my doorstep, I admit I might have done a little happy dance. I had heard that Ms. Weiner was tackling surrogate motherhood in this book and I was pretty curious to see how she'd manage to make this story a touching, yet funny, one.

I think she succeeded in making THEN CAME YOU a very readable book. There were a few funny scenes (but none as memorable as the ones in GOOD IN BED); and I was definitely touched by a few of the incidents in the characters' lives. However, I didn't love this novel and I wouldn't say it was my favorite one of her books. I just felt as if it was kind of predictable and I thought the ending wasn't quite up to par from what I expect from Ms. Weiner's books. Having said that, I did like the premise of the story as well as the character development, and I would definitely recommend it to my friends. It just isn't going to be one of my top reads for the year.

THEN CAME YOU tells the story of four women whose lives are brought together through one woman's infertility. When India marries an older (and very wealthy) man, she wants to have a child with him. Unfortunately, she is unable to conceive so she turns to the idea of a surrogate mother. The egg is provided by a recent college graduate Jules. Annie, a wife and mother of two, decides to be the surrogate because she feels as if her family needs the extra money. And Bettina is India's bitter and socially awkward step-daughter. The story is told in alternating chapters of the various characters, and the reader sees the entire experience through each of their eyes.

THEN CAME YOU explores so many aspects of modern motherhood -- from egg donation, to surrogate parenting, to single parenting, to co-parenting; and I did find it all very interesting. There were definitely a few ethical dilemmas brought up in the story, and I liked that it did make me think (and even re-think) some of my views. I appreciated how Ms. Weiner explored the stresses of infertility as well as surrogacy on the family members, and I did like some of the ultimate messages about sacrifice and co-parenting.

As entertaining as THEN CAME YOU was, I found that it was some of the secondary stories that really captured my interest. For example, the reader discovers important information about each woman's past which really helped to explain some of their thoughts, feelings, and actions. Each one of these women had some issue with their parents (i.e. lack of attention, addiction issues, abandonment, etc.) that made them so much more complex than I first thought. Not only did it help me to understand them, but I also found them to be more likable when I realized that their present-day (sometimes annoying) behavior was the result of events in their past.

THEN CAME YOU has so many interesting issues that would make it perfect for book clubs. All of the characters are very complex with a lot of family issues, and I think they would be fascinating to discuss. There is a reading guide available with so many terrific questions. Some of the more obvious themes that you might want to explore include surrogacy, ethical dilemmas, infertility, egg donation, financial gains, and parent/child relationships.  However, there are also some marvelous other issues to delve into such as love, attraction, desire/longing, contentment, secrets, motives, jealousy, opportunity, guilt, marriage problems, grief, loss, forgiveness, and sacrifice.

I have no doubt that THEN CAME YOU will be extremely popular with fans of Ms. Weiner's as well as book clubs. It's an entertaining book about women, relationships, motherhood, and surrogacy. But the real beauty of this novel was in how readers will relate to these four women.

Thanks to Engelman & Co. for providing a copy of this novel.

Tuesday, July 12
7:00 PM
Barnes & Noble
33 East 17th Street
New York, NY
Whoopie pies provided by BAKED

*As part of the Atria Literary Salon Series, the NYC event will be broadcast live via Livestream

Wednesday, July 13
1:00 PM
Princeton Public Library
65 Witherspoon Street
Princeton, NJ
Whoopie pies provided by Sugar + Sunshine Bakery

Wednesday, July 13
7:30 PM
Philadelphia Free Library
1901 Vine St.
Philadelphia, PA
Whoopie pies provided by Flying Monkey Bakery

Thursday, July 14
7:00 PM
Hawthorn Middle School North
201 Hawthorn Parkway
Vernon Hill, IL
Free tickets: CLICK HERE
Whoopie pies provided by Bleeding Heart Bakery

Friday, July 15
7:00 PM
Unity Temple on the Plaza
707 W. 47th Street,
Kansas City, MO
Whoopie pies provided by Bloom Baking Co.


Laura at Library of Clean Reads said...

I don't think I've ever read Jennifer Weiner but I'm sure I have one of her books on my bookshelf. This one seems to be a heavy duty one because of the topics. Great review!

bermudaonion said...

I think I need to give Weiner's book another try. I read one of her books years ago and didn't love it as much as my friends did. I have heard that Good in Bed is her best.

Anonymous said...

I have to give Weiner's books a try. I'm not sure why I haven't yet. I'm going to have to do something about that.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

This sounds really good. I have a backlog of Jennifer Weiner books in my TBR pile and I really want to get to them because I loved her first book! I'm still catching up on my Julie books though - just finished To Have and To Kill! :--)

Dawn @ sheIsTooFondOfBooks said...

I didn't know much about this book until I read your review; interesting that the secondary stories so captured your attention.

No whoopie pie tour in my area :(