Once upon a time, there was a very clever burglar who when he was discovered by the daughter of the house spun a yarn about being her brother’s roommate at school. He was a delightful and handsome fellow who spun her right into bed before disappearing with the silver. So when she fell pregnant, she spun her own story about going to a sperm bank and that was how Laura got Emma.

I think from that beginning it is clear that Laura is not your usual single mother and this is not your usual story about the challenges of single motherhood. She is more concerned about climate change than hemlines. A photo of her was posted as an example of street fashion so she took that as official imprimatur and never changed her look again. She is the child of wealth, multi-generational wealth, though she morally disapproves of privilege and lives right on the edge of Harlem because it’s more affordable and shops at a neighborhood grocery rather than at an upscale market.

Emma is a fairly typical young girl who wants a more fashionable mother, at least at first. She has an awakening that sets her on a course of self-improvement and self-discipline that distances her somewhat from her mother, though a lot of that seems normal teen angst.

Laura and Emma is filled with subtle humor that pokes and pricks at Laura’s pretensions.  For example, Laura thinks she is commendably democratic and anti-elitist because she shops at a discount grocery and lives in an apartment without a concierge, with a real cross-section of society on the edge of Harlem. Others might see her as a gentrifier. But it’s more than that, she’s a working mom, but when her supervisor told her she could not work half-time and take summers off to take care of Emma, she appealed to the board–her relatives since she was working for a library founded by her grandfather.

This is is not a big story, it’s a quiet little book about a family. I enjoyed the humor, the subtle hypocrisies that Laura remained oblivious to. Laura is one of those people who move lightly through life, often taking the easy road, meaning well, but not always doing good. This is not a book with broad laugh out loud humor, but it is saturated with the moments that make you grin.

I was provided an e-galley of Laura and Emma by the publishers through NetGalley.

Laura and Emma at Simon & Schuster

Kate Greathead author site