Wednesday, November 30, 2011

#BookReview: Substitute Me - Lori L. Tharp

Thirty year old Zora Anderson has floated from place to place and job to job on a whim.  Moving on when things become too much to handle, she finds herself in New York with a place to stay, but in desperate need of a job.  The college-educated daughter of upwardly mobile parents, Zora realizes that she's not living up to the goal her parents have set for her.  Even still, the former au pair in France decides to give being a New York nanny a try.

Kate Carter is headed back to work after an extended maternity leave and the search is on to find the perfect nanny.  She has regrets about leaving her infant son home with a stranger, but figures the ad she's placed will guarantee a perfect fit.

Substitute Me: Looking for a nanny who will take care of my six-month-old baby as if he were her own.  Five full days a week.  No cooking or cleaning required.  Must love children and be prepared to show it.  References required.

Raised in a working class neighborhood, Brad Carter is hesitant to bring in a nanny to watch his son, Oliver.   While his and Kate's jobs afford them certain privileges, he's unsure that this new situation meshes well with the way he was raised.  As Kate begins to work longer hours and Brad becomes more accustomed to Zora's presence in the house, it seems that the 'substitute me' is beginning to take on additional duties that have nothing to do with baby Oliver.

It's important to note that while Zora is black and the Carters are white, their races are not necessarily the central issue.  It seems to me that the issue is one woman completely giving power over her life to someone else and then questioning it when that person steps in and does a better job at it.  Kate and her mother make racially charged comments about Zora, but if they were being honest with themselves, they would realize that her race has nothing to do with the situation Kate finds herself in. 

In Jodi Picoult fashion, Lori L. Tharp has crafted a nanny story that gives the reader all sides.  Often the story is only told from the point of view of the nanny.  In Substitute Me, you really get a chance to learn the characters and understand that perception really is reality.

What did you like about this book?
It really made me think beyond the obvious.  As a black woman, I think I see race first sometimes and sex second.  This book made me realize that in this case, while race played a small part, overall it was not caused the real conflict.

What didn't you like about this book?
Zora's relationship with Keith isn't as fleshed out as I would have liked to see it.

What could the author do to improve this book?
 I don't know that I love the cover of the book.  Nothing about it screams nanny lit or anything else that would grab my eye.  If I saw it in the bookstore, I would assume it was a thriller/murder mystery just based on its darkness.

368 pp
Published August 2010 
Disclaimer: A copy was provided by the publisher.

Theme: I'd Rather Go Blind by Etta James

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