Genre: Women's Fiction
Format: Kindle ARC
No. of Pages: 352
Date of Publication: March 16, 2021
My Rating: 4 Stars
Alice Sullivan, a high-achieving architect and mom of two, is used to being in control. Until life rips the blueprints right out of her hands.
While she's always strived for a picture perfect life, Alice's foundation is rocked when she discovers her daughter is failing reading at school, and worse, her son is a bully, having humiliated a classmate on stage in front of 500 of their peers. Alice feels desperate to make things right, but when she turns to her friends for support, she discovers her own social standing has eroded now that she's one of "those moms" who can't control her kids.
As she tries to figure out where she went wrong, her curated life unravels further. She faces setbacks with a key client, her husband travels incessantly for business, and her mother decides to unload a family secret she's kept for more than thirty years--one that shifts Alice's entire perception of herself.
Despite her attempts to keep things under control, Alice can no longer rely on a spotless kitchen and an inventive mudroom design to make her feel better. She's been trying to beat the competition, measuring her success and happiness by everyone else's standards. Alice finds help, comfort, and strength from unexpected places, once she realizes that no one's got it all together, and that maybe that's okay.
In this book that explores the dynamic of family when it comes to troubled kids, we have a story that is mostly told in the viewpoint of Alice Sullivan. However, as the chapters develop in this story, there are five other characters who have chapters. As Alice is in conference with her daughter's teaching, she is shocked to learn that her young daughter Adrian is very far behind in reading, that is disturbing enough. However, finding out that her son Teddy is the class bully is incomprehensible. Her friends Nadia and Meredith also have children of the same age and have been friends for years. Alice always that her children were a cut above the others.
Alice may be friends with Nadia and Meredith, but things certainly are on shaky ground. For one thing, Alice always felt that Nadia's son Donovan was the bad boy, and now Alice is pretty much forced to completely rethink that with her current problems with Teddy. Then there is Meredith and her daughter Sadie and the role she played in things in this book. Meanwhile, Alice's mother Evelyn has something to tell Alice. This is something that will no doubt shake Alice's world and could possibly cause detrimental effects to their relationship.
One thing proves quite true in this book. The preteens in this book all have access to social media. For the most part, the parents have exercised caution with their children, but these kids are smarter than their parents when it comes to technology, and this indeed proves to create untold problems that have devastating effects.
As a parent of six and grandmother of nine, I admit to having gotten frustrated with this book more than once. I know what I did to protect my children of the dangers of the internet and and I found the decisions made by the children as well as the parents often to be quite disappointing. But my experiences are certainly my own, so I tried to put myself into the minds of the parents when it came to what they were dealing with their children.
The narration of this book was definitely on point. I loved that so many characters had their own voice, especially when it came to bring in the multigenerational situation that concerned Evelyn, all while Alice and the other mothers coped with the difficulties their children faced. This was my first book by Kathleen West and I am glad for the opportunity. I definitely look forward to reading some of her other books.
Many thanks to Berkley Books and to NetGalley for this ARC for review. This is my honest opinion.
Please enjoy the following excerpt:
ARE WE THERE YET? by Kathleen West
On Sale March 16, 2021
Sadie not liking her favorite movies anymore was just one more indicator of the capriciousness of junior high. At least Meredith had the portal to help her monitor the chaos. As the landing screen loaded in front of her, Meredith raised two fingers to the permanent wrinkle in the center of her forehead. She'd told Alice and Nadia she didn't believe in Botox, which was true. But lately, her eyebrow crease deepened by the day.
This time, the worrying was because of Sadie's science grade. It had been a 93 the night before, and this morning it was an 84. Meredith clicked for a more detailed report just as Sadie arrived in the kitchen, her stockinged feet shuffling on the wood floor Meredith and Bill had installed the previous spring. Alice had overseen the refurbishment and sourced the reclaimed boards from barns in outstate Minnesota. Alice had also helped Meredith choose her dining room table, place mats, and napkins. Soon, Meredith hoped, her friend could advise on new countertops and cabinetry. Bill would have a bonus coming in December.
"Can I have coffee?" Sadie asked, a smile fluttering. Her daughter had already combed her hair, a heart-shaped barrette holding her growing-out bangs near her right temple.
Meredith laughed. "If you want something hot, you could have herbal tea."
Sadie sat at the table and ran her fingers over the steel-blue place mat. "But Chloe and Mikaela both drink lattes."
Meredith put her phone on the counter and ladled a scoop of oatmeal into a bowl. "Maybe their parents don't know about the negative side effects of caffeine," Meredith said. "That's what you get for having a mom who's up to date on medical research." She winked at Sadie.
When Meredith herself had been a seventh grader, she'd poured gritty coffee into a perma-stained travel mug and taken the city bus to school most mornings. Her mom worked the earliest shifts at the nursing home, sometimes catching a double to cover groceries and gas. With the basics to worry about, she hadn't had time to think about what it meant to start drinking coffee at twelve, even though she'd been a nurse.
But Meredith did consider caffeine. Even though she worked thirty hours per week as a physical therapist, she also made time to think about both Sadie's protein consumption and her science grade. Meredith grabbed her phone again and felt her jaw drop as she looked at Sadie's most recent test score.
"Sadie!" she shouted before she could decide whether it would traumatize her daughter.
Sadie dropped her spoon, the metal clanking against the side of her bowl. "What?"
"What the hell happened on the unicellular and multicellular organism test?" Meredith felt her forehead again, stretching the wrinkle. "Fifty-six?" Probably, Meredith thought, Mr. Robinson had made an error in reporting. And also, why did I say "hell"?
Sadie picked up her spoon again. "Yeah," she said calmly. "I just totally bricked that." She pushed an overflowing spoonful of oatmeal in her mouth and chewed, her cheeks puffed.
"Sorry for saying 'hell.'" Meredith and Bill had agreed ages ago to watch their language, but the shock of the 56 overwhelmed her. "Fifty-six?" she said again to Sadie. "That's the lowest grade you've ever gotten in your life. Is it a mistake?"
Once she'd swallowed, Sadie lifted her napkin to her face and dabbed at her eyes, though Meredith couldn't see any tears. "Sorry, Mom," Sadie said. "I'm not quite sure what happened. I saw it last night before I went to bed."
Meredith blinked. So, Sadie had known about the failing grade and not mentioned it. "Why didn't you tell me?" Meredith sat next to her at the table and put her hand over her daughter's wrist.
Sadie sniffled again, but her eyes were definitely dry. "I guess I was hoping it would just go away overnight. You wouldn't have to know."
Meredith squeezed. "Sadie, that's silly. It's right here." She waved her phone over the oatmeal bowl. "In this day and age, it's impossible to keep a secret."
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Kathleen West is a veteran middle and high-school teacher. She graduated with a degree in English from Macalester College and holds a Master's degree in literacy education from the University of Minnesota. She lives in Minneapolis with her hilarious husband, two sporty sons, and very bad goldendoodle.