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The Smart One Hardcover – Deckle Edge, April 2, 2013

3.6 out of 5 stars 142 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

After watching her engagement fall apart, her job performance tank, and her credit-card balance rise into the stratosphere, Claire Coffey decides it’s time to move back home. An old romantic flame even resurfaces, though Claire believes that being home for any meaningful length of time forces a regression to teenage behavior. While Claire, older sister Martha, younger brother Max, and the rest of the Coffey family try to navigate the logistics of having adult children return to the previously empty nest, they realize that no right answers can be found in any parenting manual. The Smart One focuses on the intersections of self-discovery, independence, and reliance in the modern family, all enlivened by Close’s signature wit and warmth. Close does an admirable job of equally voicing the Coffey children, straining to reevaluate their priorities under a shared roof, and the Coffey parents, aching to provide guidance without wanting to seem heavy-handed. A touchingly tender, emotionally honest novel about shifting priorities and the nontraditional career paths so many find themselves on, this will appeal to fans of Jennifer Weiner and Laura Dave. --Stephanie Turza

Review

“As in her previous novel Girls in White Dresses, Close nails the yearning, confusion, fear and bravado that characterize contemporary young adulthood. . . . Wit and vibrant characters make The Smart One an engaging exploration of a thoroughly modern family dynamic.” —Robin Micheli, People
 
The Smart One has such authentic, multifaceted characters. . . . Close does a great job of creating these protagonists. They had depth, they were distinct from each other, and their motivations were believable. . . . [Close] is a strong writer, and other people will connect with the well-drawn protagonists of this novel.” —Marisa Atkinson and Casey Peterson, Book Riot

“If you’re looking for the literary equivalent of HBO’s Girls, then check out Jennifer Close’s debut novel, Girls in White Dresses, which charts the travails of flailing twentysomethings. Her follow-up, The Smart One, feels the way Girls could circa season 6, when ‘almost getting it kind of together’ ceases to be cute. . . . This bighearted novel examines a generation of nonstarters with a mix of empathy and Close’s signature deadpan, pathos-driven humor.” —Stephan Lee, Entertainment Weekly

“Close’s gift as a writer is her spare but delicious prose and unflinching way of describing her characters.” —Marissa Stapley Ponikowski, The Globe and Mail
“A pleasure to read.” —Sherryl Connelly, New York Daily News
 
“Close’s sophomore effort (after her acclaimed and best-selling Girls in White Dresses) is a well-written family drama in which all the characters keep moving forward, but not all the loose ends are completely and neatly tied. . . . Sure to please.” —Karen Core, Library Journal

“I want to be friends with all of the narrators of Jennifer Close’s addictive novel.” —Megan Angelo, Glamour

“While Claire, older sister Martha, younger brother Max, and the rest of the Coffey family try to navigate the logistics of having adult children return to the previously empty next, they realize that no right answers can be found in any parenting manual. The Smart One focuses on the intersections of self-discovery, independence, and reliance in the modern family, all enlivened by Close’s signature wit and warmth. Close does an admirable job of equally voicing the Coffey children, straining to reevaluate their priorities under a shared roof, and the Coffey parents, aching to provide guidance without wanting to seem heavy-handed. A touchingly tender, emotionally honest novel about shifting priorities and the nontraditional career paths so many find themselves on.” —Stephanie Turza, Booklist
 
“Close, whose first novel (Girls in White Dresses, 2011) romped with recent college grads newly on their own, focuses here on two sisters on the cusp of 30, both torn between independent womanhood and lingering dependence on parents. . . . Martha, who has always been needy and socially off-kilter, steals the novel . . . The friction between the sisters is palpable and real. . . . The novel sings in the small moments when its women express uncomfortable truths, undercurrents of sibling resentment and parental disappointment, which usually remain unspoken. . . . Perfect for the beach or a long plane trip.” —Kirkus
 
The Smart One is emotionally engaging and thoughtful; like Anne Tyler, Close goes straight into the heart of a group of people to show all its flawed, complicated members clearly and deftly and totally without judgment. There is not one dull moment—Close is a subtle and incisive writer who gets better with each new book.” —Kate Christensen, author of The Astral
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; First Edition edition (April 2, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307596869
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307596864
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 1.3 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (142 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,166,312 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Ladybug TOP 500 REVIEWER on May 6, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I finished this book a few days ago, and I've been trying to think of an accurate way to describe it. The book started slowly; it took me about five chapters to really get into it. But then it flowed nicely. I wasn't particularly interested in the characters, but I was curious to see where the story went. And while I would say that the ending of the book was appropriate and mostly satisfactory, I still felt like I had just read 250+ pages and walked away with nothing.

I think ultimately it was tough to really love this book because there just wasn't much character development. Sure, things happened, circumstances evolved and changed, but I never felt like I knew these people. I never cared about or identified with them. Overall, it was an okay read, but still kind of disappointing.
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Jennifer Close's novel has a peculiar flatness and disengagement. Most of the sentences sound the same. And most of the characters share this flatness. Many of the reviews mention the warmth and closeness of the Coffeys, but I don't see it; to me, the younger women are almost interchangeable. The lack of physical description is annoying, and it contributes to the flat, slick feeling of the book. I got utterly disgusted with being told that character after characters' inability to say something she deeply wanted to say. In fact, I think that Close's penchant for telling rather than showing contributes, in a fundamental way, to this bool's flatness and mediocrity. We don't learn why Martha left nursing, though this is supposed to be important. We don't understand why Claire went broke. We never get any senser of the long-suffering Will at all. Close seems content to brush over the real issues and passiosn of this family, concentrating instead on the inanities of its everyday interactions. The only character I liked was feisty-old-lady Bets,even though she, too, is something of a stereotype. Kept reading this novel hoping that it would deepen, that Close would show some insighjt, that the characters would come alive. But, sigh, they never did. I never even understood who "The Smart One" was! Overall, barely merited the two stars I awarded it.
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Weezy always felt there was an order to the list. It served to guide the family in matters big and small. At first she and Will needed everything. Now what she needs are happy, accomplished lives for her children, Claire, Max, and Martha. One time a discontented and rebellious Claire had written, "a life". Now Weezy fears that the grown children have lost their focus and wandered off their goals. Weezis not an ambitious mother, she is a mother who wants her children to have what THEY NEED.

Claire's engagement has broken off. She is broke and will need to move home. Martha has left nursing school to manage a JCrew. Max is a genial laid back guy with a beautiful girlfriend. Each of the characters is distinctive in their struggle. The author has captured nicely the new American phenomenon of the extended childhood. Unfortunately it is a story that is a bit too universal. Interestingly, when the characters urge themselves to break from their patterns, we find ourselves doing a little cheer for the same thing. In fact my favorite scene is one in which Martha's therapist, after a year, becomes a bit impatient with the eternal tomorrow vastly upsetting Martha.

The prose is gentle, and the plot makes no sudden turns. For a pleasant time with the cares and worries of an interesting family, this book certainly fills the need.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I feel like "The Smart One" for choosing this book from Amazon Vine. HOW I LOVED IT! Jennifer Close writes a funny, poignant tale of a family. Every family member becomes a character the reader cares for.

When ALL the kids move home at the same time though they have finished college, it's not quite what Will and Louise expected of their smart and talented kids. Though Claire is thirty and Martha a year older, there they are, fighting over the sink and the tooth brushes. Son Max is in his senior year, but THAT girl he's involved with (Cleo)! We're ready to hate her with her bikini-beautiful body and her casual ways. She wins us over too.

What I liked best about this book is the way Close moves into the character's world and populates it with fears and anxieties in the midst of what should be a manageable situation, and readers can nod their heads and say "Oh, wow. Me too." Claire gets involved with a 28-year old guy living in his parents' basement. He's cool with just about anything, and the two of them find solace for their broken engagements with one another. Martha is a neurotic pain, but sometimes people are. Close gives us the edge of knowing what ridiculous strand of worry Martha will latch onto next. And Max, so at ease with the world, dear Max, faces the biggest problems of all.

The mom in this book is not made to seem like a dinosaur from a different century. She is quite the doting mother, yet she looks for the good in all her children. They call her Wheezy (short for Louise), and though the "kids" can be rude and child-like around her, Wheezy hangs in there with each one.

"The Smart One" is an absolute delight. I would love to see a trilogy about this family because I have to know what happens next.
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