Sunday, October 9, 2011

Book Review: What Came First

By Melissa Amster
The desire to have a child is common in this day and age, and some women will do whatever it takes to become a mother. This desire is especially apparent in Carol Snow's latest novel, "What Came First."

Vanessa wants her live-in boyfriend to propose, but when all he gives her for her birthday is a mix CD and she realizes she's not getting any younger, she begins to wonder if there is another way to be fulfilled.
Wendy gave birth to twins, thanks to a donor, and is now ready to pull her hair out. Her husband, Darren, isn't much help when all he does is get lost in virtual worlds. And she makes scrapbooks and eats junk food to save her own sanity.
Laura's son was also conceived through a donor and she would give him the world if she could. All he wants is a sibling and she's determined to give him one. Her efforts at obtaining a sibling connect her to Vanessa and Wendy in unexpected ways, forcing them all to decide what is most important to them.

I loved this novel. I miss the three women now that I've finished reading it. The story, and the way it was told, is just so raw, gripping and honest. It has a very edgy feel, while also establishing the important stuff. I felt like I was really there with each woman and could see parts of myself in them. They were all so relatable. I found myself experiencing the same kinds of emotions they did and wanting to tell them what to do next. The secondary characters enhanced the story in so many ways. It was easy to tell who was likable, who wasn't, and who was full of surprises. The kids seemed so realistic. They talked in age appropriate ways and they even reminded me of my own kids in some ways. (Then again, Wendy's kids made my three year-old son's tantrums seem "easy" to deal with.) Another nice thing was that the ending didn't tie things together perfectly. Instead, Ms. Snow left us wondering what would happen next for each of the women, but also giving us some hope for a good outcome. I also liked the allusions to the title through the use of chickens and eggs throughout the story.

The only criticism I have is that there was way too much corporate advertising going on, through "product placement" of locations (Target, P.F. Chang's, Domino's Pizza, etc.). I think there was only one location that sounded original to the book (unless it's an actual place that I've just never heard of). If anything, Ms. Snow should be getting paid by these corporations if she hasn't been already. While it's nice to have a visualization of a location, I also appreciate when an author creates a place of her own for the characters to visit and is able to bring it to life with a lot of description. I also read about a book project initiative where the author is paying homage to small businesses. This may be a nice approach for Ms. Snow to take for future books, especially if she's going to give them multiple mentions. In any case, this didn't take away from the story and made it feel even more realistic. Also, if reading about fertility issues isn't your cup of tea, you may want to keep that in consideration before picking up this novel. There were some things that other characters in the story said that may come off as offensive or upsetting at times.

Overall, "What Came First" was a sweet story about love and the choices that come along with it. At first, I thought it was going to be another version of Jennifer Weiner's latest novel. However, it was it's own original story and had a lot of candid, tongue-in-cheek humor, combined with honesty and emotion. I'd love to see this story played out on the big screen. In the meantime, I highly recommend reading it. (We'll be doing a giveaway in November, but here's one to enter ASAP, as it ends at midnight EST tonight! US only.)

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Amy said...

great review! I can't wait to read it!

Brittany said...

I won this book in your giveaway. I just finished reading it. It was amazing :). I was excited when the author mentioned Hennessey's. It's one of my favorite places in Hermosa beach. Although, I didn't like the ending. haha I'm glad you did!