Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Review: Cutting Teeth by Julia Fierro

In Cutting Teeth by Julia Fierro, a motley crew of five families and a nanny from Brooklyn head to a shabby house on Long Island for a long weekend. The parents have largely been thrown together by their children who share music classes and the playground. Personalities abound among the parents as well as the children and those personalities eventually clash as the group spends a weekend in close quarters in the house where they face each other's idiosyncrasies. The parents are most challenged over the weekend, however, when they face their own limitations and insecurities.

 Nicole leads the group to her parents house in Long Island for the weekend. Mother to Wyatt who has his share of behavioral issues, Nicole has a disproportionate anxiety about disasters and her car trunk is stocked with gas masks and non-perishables. Her husband has grown weary of her worries and finds Wyatt challenging at best leaving Nicole feeling very alone. Tiffany leads the music class all the children attend and her daughter, Harper Rose, is a born leader who frequently bullies the other children. Tiffany is too focused on trying to bury her own working class background by helping her daughter achieve and climb socially (at age 3!) that she is oblivious to Harper's poor treatment of the other children. Tiffany is strikingly attractive and used to getting her own way. The daddy in the group, Rip, is father to Hank and a stay-at-home Dad while his wife works at a high-powered job. He desperately wants a second child but is having difficulty convincing his wife to get pregnant again. His resentment of her reluctance to have another child only stokes his attraction to Tiffany which is hard to keep under wraps while they are all together for the weekend.

Allie and Susanna, a lesbian couple, are also no strangers to ambivalence about expanding their family. Susanna is pregnant with their third child but Allie resents the ways in which their lives have changed since having children. She loves their boys Levi and Dash but she also longs for the couple they were before children - she is only along for this trip to the burbs to satisfy her heavily pregnant partner. Leigh, the daughter of a wealthy family, has two children - Chase and Charlotte. Chase is on the spectrum and challenges Leigh every day. In addition to the trials of a child with special needs, Leigh is quietly dealing with financial issues and has gone to great lengths to keep them hidden. All of this pressure is somewhat alleviated by the help offered by her beloved nanny, Tenzin. Tenzin is along for the weekend.

My Thoughts
Through chapters that alternate from parent to parent, this book presents parenthood unvarnished. The parents are inherently flawed and it is a good reminder that parenthood doesn't transform everyone to better, higher human beings. Although all these parents love their children unconditionally, they still grapple with their own insecurities which sometimes cloud their ability to model the best behavior for their children. Tenzin, with limited means and living far away from her own children, is the moral compass for this crew and is able to see truths that the other parents cannot see because they are so wrapped up in their own issues. She offers an excellent balance to a dysfunctional cast of characters.

It takes a special talent to make unlikable characters compelling and that is just what Fierro does in this book. I would like to think I have little in common with these characters and on the surface I probably don't but we all have insecurities and on that level I can relate to these parents. The honesty of this story is refreshing and its use of parental stereotypes is spot on.  Definitely recommend.

Thank you to TLC Booktours for having me on the tour.  You can find links to reviews from others on the tour here.


  1. Great review! I'm so glad you enjoyed the book. Thank you for being on the tour!

  2. Oh, I just love a book where the author can make you want to read about characters that are unlikable!

  3. I, too, thought the characters were dislikable, but I thought they were so dislikable that I didn't enjoy the book. Every time I picked it up, I just got annoyed by them and didn't want to listen to their inanity anymore. :(

  4. Colleen. just can't decide if this is for me. I fear, I might be too old to appreciate it...LOL

  5. Terrific review. I'm still on the fence about reading it!

  6. The jacket blurb made the book sound too familiar but your intriguing review makes me want to take a second look at Cutting Teeth, especially the part about a compelling unlikable character. That reminds me of Olive Kitteridge.