I received this book for review consideration from the publisher, via Shelf Awareness for Readers. All opinions are my own.How to Party With an Infant
Written by Kaui Hart Hemmings
Published by Simon and Schuster on August 9th 2016
Genres: Fiction, Literary, Contemporary, Family Life
Source: publisher, via Shelf Awareness for Readers
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The new novel from the New York Times bestselling author of The Descendants—a hilarious and charming story about a quirky single mom in San Francisco who tiptoes through the minefields of the “Mommy Wars” and manages to find friendship and love.
When Mele Bart told her boyfriend Bobby she was pregnant with his child, he stunned her with an announcement of his own: he was engaged to someone else.
Fast forward two years, Mele’s daughter is a toddler, and Bobby and his fiancée want Ellie to be the flower girl at their wedding. Mele, who also has agreed to attend the nuptials, knows she can’t continue obsessing about Bobby and his cheese making, Napa-residing, fiancée. She needs something to do. So she answers a questionnaire provided by the San Francisco Mommy Club in elaborate and shocking detail and decides to enter their cookbook writing contest. Even though she joined the group out of desperation, Mele has found her people: Annie, Barrett, Georgia, and Henry (a stay-at-home dad). As the wedding date approaches, Mele uses her friends’ stories to inspire recipes and find comfort, both.
How to Party with an Infant is a hilarious and poignant novel from Kaui Hart Hemmings, who has an uncanny ability to make disastrous romances and tragic circumstances not only relatable and funny, but unforgettable.
A version of the following review was previously published in Shelf Awareness for Readers (August 12, 2016).
How to Party With an Infant is one of the titles that chef and single mom Mele Bart considers for her entry in the San Francisco Mothers’ Club cookbook-writing contest. It’s also the title that Kaui Hart Hemmings, author of The Descendants and The Possibilities, has given this novel of friendship and parenthood in the Bay Area.
When Mele told Bobby, her daughter Ellie’s father, that she was pregnant, he decided that was the right time to tell her he was engaged to someone else. Now Ellie is a toddler and Bobby and his fiancée want her to be the flower girl at their wedding. Mele has reluctantly agreed to bring Ellie, but as the wedding approaches she needs an outlet for her nervous energy. The cookbook project presents itself at just the right time.
As Mele digs into the contest’s exhaustive entry questionnaire, she decides to approach the project by creating recipes inspired by the personal stories of the parents in her SFMC playgroup. In exchange for their participation, she’ll prepare a meal for her friends featuring all of the dishes. Mele and her daughter have finally landed in the right group of misfits after several unsuccessful playgroup placements, and her friends are eager to support her.
This framework gives How to Party With an Infant a linked-stories structure, with Mele’s all-too-revealing responses to the contest questionnaire and excerpts from threads on the SFMC message boards functioning as the connective tissue between them. Hemmings has not included recipes in this novel built around writing a cookbook, but she’s packed it with plenty of humor, heart and true-to-life dialogue.
(I passed my copy of How to Party With an Infant to my sister after I finished it, and she rated it 4 stars on Goodreads.)
HOW TO PARTY WITH AN INFANT: From Chapter One
The afternoon holds the beautiful promise that it will soon be over. A rusty gold light falls through the clouds, the cold air has an even sharper edge, and white halogen headlights from cars on Fell and Oak make the little playground light up like a stage. Mele Bart eats cashews from a Dora cup and watches her daughter play on the purple slides.
Ellie, a wonderful mistake, is two and a half years old. Amazing. Mele remembers bringing her home from the hospital, her little head not yet fitting in the support cushion of the car seat. Mele kept looking back in disbelief. Two days prior she had left her apartment without a baby and now she was returning with one.
There were times in those first weeks, when Ellie cried and cried, her face always shaking to the right, that Mele wanted to throw her out the window. She would cry alongside her baby, wondering what was to become of her life as a single mom, the love of her life having knocked her up, then run back to the love of his life. But now, when she looks at her daughter, she wonders what was even good about life before her. What did she have? What did she do with all that time? Movies, brunch, writing short stories. Cooking for women who had dinner parties for women they didn’t seem to like very much.
Still, that doesn’t make her less angry at her lying-sack-of-skin ex-boyfriend.
Ellie is talking to herself on the tire swing—she is quite bossy in her make-believe. In Mele’s prior life she’d never be doing this: sitting at a playground and filling out a questionnaire for the San Francisco Mother’s Club Cookbook Competition.