REVIEW: CUTTING TEETH, BY JULIA FIERRO

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With Labor Day weekend approaching and with the threat of the bird flu lending a state of panic to some, Nicole arranges for a weekend retreat at the beach. The “mommies play group” members are all invited. The year is 2010 and the characters reside in Brooklyn.

They include Susanna and Allie, the lesbian mothers of twins; Leigh, the debutante, whose son Chase has behavioral problems, and her infant Charlotte, who is a blessing to Leigh; Tiffany, who looks and acts like the group princess, or possibly the seductress, is resented by most, and whose daughter Harper is like a mini-me; and Rip, the Mr. Mom of the group, whose son Hank is shy, and some might say “effeminate.”

Spouses and partners might also be joining in…and, of course, the children, all preschoolers or infants, will be there en masse.

In alternate chapters, we follow each individual’s perspective, and while they all seem like cardboard cutouts in the beginning, we gradually see them fleshed out.

Nicole is anxious, almost neurotic, and with her son Wyatt, heads out to the beach house first.

Susanna and Allie’s issues are evident when we first meet them. Susanna has given birth to the twins and is pregnant again. Does she resent being the one carrying the babies? Allie is wrapped up in her career and feels like an outsider in the group she has labeled Mommy Camp.

Rip’s wife Grace feels like an outsider, too, and some issues are evident between her and Tiffany almost immediately. Is Tiffany purposely trying to horn in on Rip? What does her partner Michael add to the mix?

The group of children seemingly swarm the place. Their behavior seems out of control, since these parents seem reluctant to curb their impulses. One child, especially, seems inappropriately coddled: Harper, at four, is still nursing, and her mother Tiffany seems blatant about it, knowing some are uncomfortable. Is Tiffany trying to show that she is above the rules to which the others adhere?

Tenzin, the Tibetan nanny, has accompanied Leigh, her boss, but is struggling to understand the language and the sayings that float around her through the day and night, while she longs for information from her homeland and her family.

For an entire weekend, we slog through the ins and outs between the parents and children, and can I say how annoying they all are? If I had to pick one over another, I would say Tiffany wins the prize as most annoying, along with her daughter Harper. Allie was the least annoying, in my opinion, and mostly because she recognizes that coddling the kids is not helping their behavior.

Meanwhile, many of these characters have big secrets. Something rather explosive will happen near the end that will change how they relate to one another…and may even turn their playgroup upside down. The explosion did shake things up a bit, and for a minute, I was interested in what might happen. But then the moment passed.

Parents of young children may enjoy Cutting Teeth: A Novel, but only a certain demographic of overly privileged parents could relate to the characters, in my opinion. 3.5 stars.


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