“Little earthquake… They happen all the time. I hardly feel them anymore.”
“I could have told him that nothing was safe and that no matter how careful you were and how hard you tried, there were still accidents, hidden traps, and snares. You could get killed on an airplane or crossing the street. Your marriage could fall apart when you weren’t looking; your husband could lose his job; your baby could get sick or die. I could have said that nothing is safe, that the surface of the world is pretty and sane, but underneath it’s all fault lines and earthquakes waiting to happen.”
Published in 2004, Jennifer Weiner’s LITTLE EARTHQUAKES was an unexpected delight. I’m a bit ashamed that I have never read Weiner before, and I know it’s because I tended to avoid the “chick lit” and so-called genre fiction categories. I was a bit arrogant with my reading and my shelves back then; that was my mistake, and one I’ve learned from.
LITTLE EARTHQUAKES may be considered “chick lit” but such a label is truly doing it a disservice; let’s stop trying to fit a story in a box and appreciate Weiner for being one helluva storyteller.
The novel revolves around four very different women who are brought together by the “little earthquakes” that define life. Weiner does an excellent job of capturing the four different women, their shared experiences, and their relationships.
Lia opens and closes the novel, and her point of view is the only one told in first person. Her story, which is the heart of the novel, breathes the most life. She’s fled her reinvented life with her fame, handsome husband, and recently dead baby in LA to return to the childhood home she’d thought she’d long escaped. Back home, she begins to put her heart and life back together. She sees a pregnant woman in the park and begins to slip baby trinkets into the woman’s bag or upon her doorstep. It’s a bit stalkerish, but Weiner cleverly controls her character. When the woman finally notices Lia watching her, she’s at her wits end with a crying baby. Unsure of what to do, she invites Lia into her home and cooks her breakfast while Lia gets the baby to stop crying. A forever bond is formed.
Becky is the pregnant woman who caught Lia’s eye. She’s fat and very self-conscious about whether she looks pregnant or not. (The fact that Lia recognized her as being pregnant quickly cemented the friendship between the pair.) Not only is Becky fat, she’s Jewish and a chef, and the most interesting character in the book. I don’t know that I’ve read a book with a fat heroine where her weight wasn’t the plot – it was refreshing.
Becky goes to a yoga class for pregnant women and meets Kelly, a high-energy event planner who places her value on material items and how she is perceived. Kelly came from nothing, and she’s very worried that the life she’s been building will be snatched from her at any time. Ayinde, the biracial wife of a pro basketball player, is also in the class. She was born into a life of privilege with her model mother and actor father. She never meant to fall in love with an athlete, but she did. It’s an unlikely friendship, but it happens organically when Ayinde goes into labor (on page 22) and Kelly and Becky rush to her aid, even though they’d just met. By the middle of the novel, the four women are a combined force.
There’s an over-bearing mother-in-law, an affair, a lost job, several breakdowns, delicious food, and a can of mandarin oranges. There are laughs, tears, blood, sweat, hope, and love. There’s forgiveness. There’s a sweetness – like those tinned oranges.
No, it’s not chick lit – it’s life.