If You Lived Here, You’d Be Home Now by Claire LaZebnik
Rickie is 25 and living with her parents, taking one college class at a time and taking care of her son, Noah, who is in the first grade. She’s in a relationship of convenience (as in they hook up when he’s in town) with the brother of her sister’s husband. She doesn’t really have any friends at her son’s elementary school and she doesn’t really want to. Her life is at a bit of a stand-still and her relationship with her mom has brought her back to adolescent behavior. Things begin to change for Rickie when her sister signs them up for the hospitality committee of the PTA and when Noah complains about the new gym teacher. The hospitality committee and confronting Noah’s gym teacher, Andrew, force Rickie to become more involved in the school, opening her up to new possibilities in terms of friendship, motherhood, and even romance.
This is very much chick lit in the sense that it involves an adult woman coming into her own and finding romance, but Rickie’s life changes much more subtly than many others in the genre. She’s still a difficult person, always wanting to do the opposite of what she’s told and being prickly and sarcastic. But she begins to let people in and starts realizing that she has a lot more control than she thinks in interacting with other people, her mother and Noah especially. She starts out the story being very protective of Noah, but it goes a bit too far. She underestimates him time and again and tends to shut him down from even trying new things, particularly when it comes to sports. Andrew takes a special interest in Noah and tries to encourage his athletic abilities, which seems to open up Rickie’s eyes for the first time that Noah wants to try sports, enjoys them, and they help boost his confidence, in spite of his not being very athletically-inclined. At the same time, Rickie and Andrew are getting to know one another and the romance that develops between them is sweet. Andrew is a genuinely nice guy and his mentoring of Noah was quite endearing. This was a romance with a single mom where it felt right for the two characters to get together– they both were invested in Noah. I also enjoyed Rickie’s developments in her relationship with her mom. The two are always at odds, but they come to realize that that is what moms are for– someone you can be your worst with who will still love you. I also thought that some of the side characters, like Rickie’s sister and her friends at the elementary school, were entertaining and interesting additions to Rickie’s life.
I kind of wish this book better addressed Rickie’s lack of direction in terms of career/education. She spends the whole book mooching off her parents and it doesn’t really seem like that was going to change soon. I’m not sure it would have fit into the scope of this book, but what can I say? I wanted to see her gain a little more momentum in terms of her future and supporting herself and Noah.
All in all, Rickie is not a particularly likeable character, but I nonetheless found myself rooting for her, Noah, and Andrew. This is the kind of chick lit I enjoy– smart character development, exploration of multiple relationships (family, friends, romance), and a sweet, easy romance. I expect I’ll return to it sometime down the line and maybe even read other books by this author.