It pains me to say I didn't like a Jennifer Weiner novel, and it will probably get me a bunch of unhelpful votes, but so be it. I loved her first 3 books, saw her movie, and got my copy of Little Earthquakes autographed by her at a reading. So you can see, I'm a fan.
But that wasn't enough to get me through Goodnight Nobody. There are spots of bright dialogue, but the overall effect is "phoned in." The characters aren't memorable or well-developed; I didn't care about them. The protagonist, Kate Klein, is the usual Weiner "stand-in" and somewhat more developed than the other characters.
So if Kate were the main focus of the novel, it might have worked out. But no, the main focus of the novel is the dead Kitty Cavanaugh. This is problematic because we barely get to know Kitty, and since Kate writes her off as a "perfect suburban mom," we're not terribly interested either.
So there's nothing to keep you reading, unless an occasional nugget of funny dialogue is enough motivation to plow through over 300 pages. For me, it's not.
I hope her next book is chick lit, not a mystery. I am grateful that I got this one from the library.
Kate Klein has just relocated to the suburbs with her husband after a mugging in New York City. When she arrives in Upchurch, a Stepford-like Connecticut suburb she discovers a town full of perfectly aerobicized and coiffed stay-at-home-mommies, complete with matching diaper bags. She hasn't quite been accepted by them, but when the queen bee invites her to lunch, she's so excited, but unfortunately finds her hostess face down in her kitchen in a pool of blood, with a butcher knife in her back. Kate's boredom results in her taking a crack at solving the murder. After all, the keystone cops cannot seem to figure out a motive or any suspects. She discovers that she and Kitty had a friend in common, Evan McKenna, a NY investigator who also happens to be a former lover she hasn't seen since an embarrassing incident that caused her to from New York and into the arms of her husband Ben. Ben wants Kate to leave the sleuthing to the authorities, while Kate just wants something to do three days a week while the kids are at school. With the help of Evan and her best bud Janie (who has the best lines!), Kate discovers that all is not well in tight-knit Upchurch, and there are plenty of secrets that people want to keep buried.
"Goodnight Nobody" is a dramatic change from Weiner's regular writing style. But her excellent storytelling and funny narrative kept me hooked. She is at her best when she writes about relationships, but I felt that the two men in her life were not completely drawn out. There were far too many things left unresolved too and since Weiner does not write sequels, the reader is left to wonder.
I am a little confused as to why Weiner, one of the hottest writers today, felt it necessary to try her hand at a mystery. After the raucous success of "In Her Shoes," "Good In Bed," and "Little Earthquakes," I expected her to keep moving on the same vein -- and I was excited about it.
But this book doesn't make the grade set by her previous three best-sellers. The mystery is clunky, the characters annoying, and the plot disjointed. This was a strange attempt at a new genre. Let's hope Weiner returns to her familiar -- and lush -- territory and leaves the mystery writing to others.
on June 2, 2006
Kate Klein is the true definition of a "Desperate Housewife." With three children under the age of five, a million-dollar cookie-cutter home in Upchurch, Connecticut, and a husband who's always working, Kate finds herself stuck in a life she never imagined for herself. She dreamed of being a reporter in New York City, not a mother of three in Suburbia. And she doesn't have anyone to talk to about her discontent, which makes things even worse. All the other mommies in town are enamored with their children and their homes and their husbands and their lives. Kate dresses in cargo pants and men's shirts instead of cashmere sweaters, pointy boots, and sheepskin coats; she can't host a sophisticated party to save her life; she makes jokes that aren't well-received by the Stepford mommies; she just doesn't fit in.
So imagine Kate's surprise when Kitty Cavanaugh, the most perfect mommy of them all, calls to invite her and her children over for an afternoon visit. But when Kate arrives at Kitty's red door, she finds her hostess face-down on the floor of her newly remodeled kitchen, with a butcher knife sticking out of her back. Since the suburban police are largely incompetent (of course), former celebrity gossip journalist Kate decides to conduct her own investigation into the murder. She's assisted by her spunky best friend Janie and by her first love, Evan McKenna, whose sudden reappearance into her life puts further strain on an already shaky marriage. Then Kate receives a threatening message on the hood of her car, and another suburban mommy suddenly disappears. She begins to realize she may be in over her head--and that her own life may be at stake.
GOODNIGHT NOBODY is a bit of a departure for Weiner, and not a very successful one. Weiner's past novels have been all about the characters she creates--and she's created some wonderfully warm and lively characters in her previous books. In GOODNIGHT NOBODY, she focuses too much on the mystery, and her characters suffer for it. I didn't care about these characters; they have no life, and they aren't memorable. The exception, maybe, is Kate's friend Janie, who has something clever to say every now and then. Kate could be an intriguing character--Weiner's imperfect heroines are part of what makes her writing so great--but instead, she just comes across as self-involved, irresponsible, and unhappy, putting her children in danger just because she's bored and wants to take a shot at solving a crime better left to the cops. Her total unwillingness to involve the police in her investigation is completely irrational and just doesn't ring true.
And what a weak plot! It's like some strange combination of DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES, SEX AND THE CITY, and THE STEPFORD WIVES. There's absolutely nothing unique about Weiner's portrait of Suburbia. The whole critique-of-the-lives-of-suburban-women theme has already been done--too many times, in my opinion.
And even more irritating is the lack of resolution at the end of the novel; the last chapter reads as if Weiner was hurrying the ending along to meet her deadline.
The only things that kept me reading GOODNIGHT NOBODY were Weiner's engaging writing style and occasionally bright dialogue (it certainly wasn't the characters or the plot). Sadly, in this case, Weiner's snappy dialogue just isn't enough to overshadow derivative characterizations and a less-than-fulfilling ending. I'll continue to read Jennifer Weiner's novels and hope they're better than this one, because GOODNIGHT NOBODY is far from her best work.
on May 31, 2006
Like others have commented, it took me a long time to get into this book. Kate was an unsympathetic, tired character and Janie was a bit too ridiculous to be believed. I also confess I don't like it much when moms are portrayed as bored & yearning to break free. Yes, being a parent is difficult, but most women I know don't find it to be as dull and irritating as Weiner makes it out to be (I felt the same when reading Little Earthquakes. Maybe it's just me, but I love being a mom and have a hard time relating to characters who complain so much about parenthood.)
But I looked past all that, and I actually enjoy a good mystery, so I was pleased when the pace began to pick up about 100 pages in. I read the rest of the novel quickly, finally getting into it... and then nothing. The ending had almost nothing to do with the 300 pages leading up to it. I don't mind an occasional unresolved issue, but when you take an entire book to set up a mystery, and you bring in all sorts of interesting factors... you don't get off the hook just by answering the original "whodunit" question.
I thought Weiner was going to do something really shocking at the end. Something that hadn't really occured to me as I was reading, wouldn't have been the happiest ending, but would've seemed a bit more in line with the investigation.
Kate was thinking about all the "high-powered men" Kitty was going after? How about if Kitty's father was Janie's father... "Janie Segal of the carpet Segals." Janie could've been the killer, or she could've been in the dark and it was her dad Sy. Either way, it would've at least had something to do with Kitty's search, and it could've explained Kitty's original phone call to Kate about "knowing someone in common." I just don't get that Evan was the entire connection there. Kitty had apparently been working with Evan for years... why did she suddenly call Kate about it? Some of the Upchurch women could've come to Kate's aide afterwards, and Kate could've finally started settling in as she realized that these women who looked on the surface to have everything were not so different after all.
OR it could've been Ted Fitch as Kitty's father, and Ben could've been involved. If Ted was the guilty party, and Ben had some knowledge, it would explain Ben's reactions to Kate's investigation, it would also explain Kitty's phone call to Kate (she wanted to discuss her husband's boss), would've answered the "who is Kitty's dad" question, and would've solved the Evan/Ben dilemma (Kate would be free to choose Evan.)
Speaking of Evan... what was the whole thing about his alibi and being missing the day Kitty was killed? It makes me mad that Weiner brought all of these questions into the minds of readers for no other purpose than to "throw us off the track." That's fine to bring up red herrings, but then resolve them one way or another.
And why, oh why, was Sukie holding the gun at the end? Kate and Sukie had been crossing paths all this time. WHY, when Kate had finally figured it out, did Sukie decide to hold Janie and the kids hostage for no apparent reason?? For the sheer "drama." Well, in order for drama to be "dramatic" it needs proper set-up, needs to seem real. This just seemed silly. (It also seemed silly that so many women apparently had the hots for creepy Philip Cavanaugh, but I digress.)
And the ending with her mother, and staying for months in Cape Cod at the home of an acquaintance? Where did these things even come from? So Weiner leaves a million questions and then "resolves" things where no answers were needed. If her mother had been making and breaking promises to her her whole life, why should this have been any different? Weiner shouldn't even have had Reina appear at the end. Ick. This book left me very unsatisfied. I'm not going to buy any more of her books anytime soon. I'll wait and get them from the library.
on February 14, 2006
I hate to admit this, but I'm getting a little tired of Jennifer Weiner's books. Her stories can be entertaining, and I absolutely adored Good in Bed, but the main character is the same in every single book. Overweight Jewish woman with dazzling personality with mother figure issues gets pregnant with ex-boyfriend's child, what will she do? Overweight Jewish woman with dazzling personality with mother figure issues gets into fight with sister, discovers she has a grandmother she never knew, what will she do? Overweight Jewish woman with dazzling personality with mother figure issues has baby & circle of friends (who all have mother issues), what will she do? Overweight Jewish woman with dazzling personality with mother figure issues finds body of dead neighbor, what will she do?
All right, Jen, we get it. Now how about branching out a little more? I'd settle for a skinny Jewish woman with Daddy issues getting into an adventure or a pudgy Protestant woman getting into some kooky mishap, just something to break away from the monotony.
That being said, this book does have its funny moments, and is enjoyable (probably more so if you haven't read her other books). I think Ms. Weiner has a lot of talent, it's just time for her to break away from her normal stuff and try something new.
on October 21, 2005
This book was a colossal disapointment after having recently read "Good in Bed". The plot is stupid, the characters are implausible, and the relationships make no sense.
I think that the publisher must have given her a fat advance because of her other great books, and she let us all down. A talent like Ms. Weiner should take her time and craft a better story.
I wish that I could get a refund for this book.
on January 21, 2006
If you've ever seen Jennifer Weiner on a talk show a few things become clear: she is smart, articulate and cares about what she does. So, with that said, it is hard to understand how this brilliant woman felt comfortable sending this manuscript to her publishers. Weiner is not some brain dead vapid author- this book is utterly inexcusable.
I loved Good in Bed but I could hardly tolerate In Her Shoes and sort of hated Little Earthquakes, but Goodnight Nobody was just an awful exercise in mediocrity. I knew I was in trouble when, on the first page, she described the little girl has having "quivering ponytails" or something like that. Now that is just bad writing. The relationship with Evan was not only resolved but also not firmly fleshed out. The husband in the book made rare appearances, and in one odd scene of the novel, he appeared just enough for the two of them to get it on on the family couch. Sexual topics aren't weird, but the way that was inserted into the story just seemed not right for some reason.
Weiner has said that labeling books "chick lit" is dismissive and that she didn't go the way of James Franzen and other contemporary writers because she wasn't interested. Fine. But, don't make some high minded debate about chick lit when you deliver crap like this book. You can't expect people to support your work when it seems like it was written not only lazily but also in a manner that insults your audience. I'm hoping for better with her next work- although I'm not sure that I'll be buying another Weiner novel.
on February 22, 2006
I borrowed this from the library and am upset over the $1.00 fine I incurred trying to get through this horrible book. I just wanted to get to the end which was painful. The writing was choppy, the characters were not developed, and I didn't like Kate. I felt bad for her kids and husband. The ending was the worst of all very rushed and unbelievable.
I liked Good in Bed, I thought I'd enjoy a mystery - this is the last Weiner book I'll read. I'll stick to the pink covered books as Weiner reffered to them somewhere in this mess, at least I don't feel reading them is a waste of my time.
on January 20, 2006
I was so disappointed in this new Jennifer Weiner book, I read Little Earthquakes in one day and I could barely make it through this book. I thought that the plot was so thin it was invisible and I didn't care about any of the characters. Nor did I care about the main character's relationship with Evan. Are we suppose to believe that this guy is important? The whole book was a wash for me. Hopefully, next time will be better....