Friday, November 4, 2011

The One I Wanted to Hate

Whenever I'm working late, covering a government meeting of some sort, Mr. Library Diva spends his evening making fishsticks for dinner and renting a Redbox movie. But he doesn't just choose something I wouldn't want to see. He chooses something NO ONE would want to see. Typically, they are smaller-budget knockoffs of a big-budget sci-fi/action or fantasy/action film. WHen I ask him how it was, there's always a note of surprise in his voice when he says it was terrible. At first, I used to try and understand the impilse, and ask him what precisely about the movie made him think it would even be worth $1 to rent? Then I gave up. Then, I checked out "The Baby PLanner," and I thought I understood.

I fully expected this book by Josie Brown to be dreadful. It had all the hallmarks of it, certainly. Any "baby planner," I figured, would by definition be dealing with irritating, whiny clients who never learned to distinguish between a real problem and one they made up. Furthermore, the baby planner in this book (in a refreshing twist) is in her 30s and wants a baby herself SO BAD, while her husband waffles and her sisters reproduce like Xerox machines. And yet, I totally did the Redbox thing: "OMG, this book looks so shit...I'm getting it, I'm totally checking this one out."

And it was actually a pretty enjoyable read. Brown is a clever writer, and dispatched my main objections early on. Katie, the "baby planner" heroine, fell into the job after her position at a consumer safety agency was lost to budget cuts. A mom-to-be sees her helping her own sister figure out which cribs are the best, asks how much she charges, and she's in business. Two of her early clients genuinely need her help: one has suffered several miscarriages and is on total bed rest and literally CAN'T do any of her own baby planning, and the other lost his wife in childbirth and is now trying to solo-care for their child while his company is getting ready to go public. See, these people NEED Katie!

Katie's husband is also -- how to say this politely? -- a douchebag. There are some clues to this early on, so I'm not exactly revealing anything shocking, and he only gets worse as the story rolls on. Her birth-control sabotaging and his stonewalling are less about a potential baby than a marriage. This adds a lot of interest to the story, and his opposition to parenthood comes from a very different place than the stereotypical "I like my freeeeeeedom!" sentiment. The tension between them culminates in The Worst Day Ever for Katie, which has a twist you spot several miles down the road, and one you're very unlikely to guess at, ever.

Katie's very likeable, which helps keep the whole "baby planner" notion palatable. Most of her clients are fairly sympathetic as well, and the unsympathetic ones are funny. It helps that she herself doesn't take the notion super-seriously, either. It's her business, and she clearly gets satisfaction out of it, but doesn't pretend that she's saving the world or anything. She doesn't make it more than what it is. As surprised as I am to say this, I enjoyed this book a lot. No, it's certainly not a tale for the ages, but it's a fun read.