Catherine Robertson hasn’t suffered at all from the famed writer’s curse of struggling to follow up on a best-selling first novel. Less than a year after her first book was released, and raced up the New Zealand charts, she’s done it again!
If you liked last year’s The Sweet Second Life of Darrell Kincaid, you will find Mo Lawrence’s not-so-perfect life an equally entertaining and enjoyable read. (And
if you’ve been living under a literary rock and haven’t yet read Darrell Kincaid, you should.)
Michelle “Mo” Lawrence was the acerbic wit at the other end of the Skype and IM chats with London-based Kiwi Darrell in the first story. Michelle was clearly crying out, loudly and belligerently I’m sure, for her own book. And it’s funny, sweet and very very entertaining.
Michelle has what appears to be the perfect life : husband from a wealthy Southern family, “pigeon-pair” children, a happy “drink and bitch” mothers’ group, and a very comfortable life in Charlotte, North Carolina. Perfect that is until her husband, Chad, accepts a lucrative high-powered job in San Francisco. Surrounded
by tanned, toned blonde yummy mommies, Michelle has to start all over again to build the sort of life she wants. She has spent years putting her own wants at the centre of everything and sees no reason to change. Chad meanwhile isn’t sure what sort of life he wants anymore. Michelle’s perfect life is in upheaval: “If she could no longer be Chad’s wife, Michelle had no idea who she would be.”
Fortunately, Michelle is not alone in her struggle. She quickly makes new friends: Aishe, the most angry woman in California, and Connie, possibly the sweetest. She would also have old mate Darrell to console her if only Darrell wasn’t so selfishly busy running away from her own problems.
It would be a disservice to refer to Robertson’s work as “chick lit” unless that means wickedly funny, clever and well-written. Although the book is a very entertaining read, it is by no means light and fluffy. The characters are flawed and human, and it’s easy to spot elements of oneself and friends in Michelle, Aishe, Connie and Darrell. Though, hopefully not too much of Aishe – she really is a scarily hostile, yet witty, character. The reasons for her fully-deployed defensive shield are never fully resolved. With any luck, she will appear in a future book. There is much yet to be explored with that character.
Robertson has set both her books overseas, for, I can only presume, very commercially-sensible reasons. There are however, more than enough references to New Zealand to give her local readers a parochial frisson of excitement. “’… Are you saying this is some kind of rite of passage in the psychological development of a human being? That I’m lacking something vital because no one close to me has bitten the big kumara?’ ‘I’m sorry – bit the what?’”
It would be great to see some of the Kiwi characters return “home” in future books. We New Zealanders do like to read about ourselves. It’s the literary equivalent of bombarding a tourist with “what do you think of New Zealand so far?” as they step off the plane.
The Not So Perfect Life of Mo Lawrence deserves to enjoy the same success as Robertson’s first book. With any luck, a third book is already underway.
Reviewed by Tiffany Matsis
The Not So Perfect Life of Mo Lawrence
by Catherine Robertson
Published by Black Swan