No one’s ever said that being a mother is an easy task, but that hardly begins to cover the number of trials and tribulations one must face when giving birth, raising, and connecting with another human being. In How to Party with an Infant, written by Kaui Hart Hemmings, readers meet Mele Bart, a young single mother living in San Francisco. When Mele receives an invitation to the wedding of her daughter’s father and his beautifully perfect, cheese-making fiancée, Mele distracts herself by entering a cookbook-writing competition. While filling out the questionnaire, she decides to interview the parents of her playgroup – Henry, Georgia, Annie, and Barrett – and turn a personal story from each of them into an original recipe. Through these stories, readers see that parenthood (and marriage) is always a rocky journey filled with mistakes from every party involved, but sometimes even the worst moments in life can bring about new horizons and endless possibilities.
It’s not often a reviewer can say that there is absolutely nothing wrong with a book; that a novel is standalone perfection and needs no tweaks or editing. How to Party with an Infant is one of those rare exceptions. There’s not much surprise in this statement, as Hemmings is no stranger to being a published author. This marks her fourth novel (fifth if her book of short stories, House of Thieves, is counted), though arguably she is best known for her book The Descendants, which gained popularity when it was turned into a major motion picture in 2011.
Just like The Descendants and her other novels, How to Party With an Infant is incredibly well written and thought out. The story follows the timeline of a few weeks – the lead up to the dreaded wedding – and contains plenty of tension, crises, and conflict. Every character is likable – unless they are supposed to be otherwise, and then they are deliciously unlikable. The narrator, Mele, is both endearing and enduring; the reader cannot help but root for her well-being, growth, and happiness. Some readers might find the language and certain subject matter in the book frank or, perhaps, a tad offensive, but it all falls in line with the story Hemmings paints and stays true to each of the characters.
Best of all: it’s funny! Actually, incredibly, tremendously funny! This book will surely put a smile on readers’ faces from start to finish. There are several humorous anecdotes, and the pages are filled with witty, comical dialogue and narration. The segment involving Mele’s first playgroup, and a much desired black belt, is particularly entertaining.
What’s more, How to Party benefits from its unique storytelling method. Hemmings switches back and forth between the main story taking place and the questionnaire Mele is answering, which puts focus on Mele’s past and the tales her friends tell. The book takes on this form where a present day story is at the forefront, but has various vignettes randomly interjected. With other authors this formula might be a disaster, but Hemmings steers her novel smoothly throughout and gifts her readers with a lovely outcome. This structural method allows readers to experience different types of stories and perspectives, while still keeping a consistent, humorous voice.
How to Party with an Infant is a story of growth, motherhood, and learning how to heal and move on; it’s about how difficult raising a child is and how worthwhile as well. It’s a powerful tale sure to make readers’ hearts swell while cracking the biggest grin – i.e. the best kind of story.
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