In 2015, we had Everybody Rise 2016, it was Rich & Pretty. Almost every summer (barring last year, as you may have noticed), a few books emerge victorious as ‘books of the summer’ that come from a particular subgenre one might refer to as “WASP classics” or “Contemporary Wharton.” Having received an advance copy of Laura & Emma from Simon & Schuster, I am confident in my assertion that Kate Greathead’s novel will take the #1 spot in 2018.
Laura & Emma was billed to me as ‘Ladybird’ in book form. I haven’t seen Ladybird (if you know me, you are likely well-aware of my inability to sit still in a movie theater), but I have heard nothing but good things, so I jumped at the chance to review it. I got the proof, and then, a mere week later, a hardcover copy arrived (love you, Simon & Schuster—all the better for sharing multiple copies with my friends). Thing is, I polished off Laura & Emma in two days, and kept telling all that I crossed paths with that it was the best proof I’d ever had the pleasure of reading.
Laura, born into a wealthy family on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, has never had to want for anything. She is the heiress to The Library, one of Manhattan’s historical landmarks and preferred wedding venues (as I read, I equated this landmark to NYC’s Morgan Library), and thus is granted a job as the wedding planner there—one a professional could do better, but an heiress can do just fine. Laura, though beautiful, is content with her single status, disinterested in marriage, and reluctant to even go on dates.
Each summer, while Laura’s parents, Bibs and Douglas, vacation in Europe, she moves into their townhouse, where she spends the majority of time sunbathing in their courtyard. One afternoon, Jefferson, one of her brother’s boarding school (St. George’s, naturally) friends stops by, and the result of their whirlwind romance (one-night stand) is: surprise! A daughter named Emma. When Laura does some digging and makes a shocking discovery about Jefferson, she is determined to keep Emma’s father’s identity under wraps.
The story that ensues is, at the surface level, a study of the fragile mother-daughter relationship (an especially tricky territory for Laura to navigate as a single mother of one), and beneath it, a coming-of-age story not only for Emma, but Laura as well. Through the often harsh, but never inaccurate observations from her daughter, Laura is exposed to—and forced to contend with—certain realities about herself, her family, and the world she grew up in. Whether or not you grew up in New York City and are acquainted with this world (it just so happens that I did, and I am), you’ll find a way to relate to one—if not more—of the characters in this book. A perfect page-turner, perhaps even worth storing away and saving for the beach.