Rose Maldone is a welfare mamma. At her mother's knee, she learned the basics of life - flashy make-up, sexy lingerie, and how to wring out as much public assistance as possible. She learned how to attract men and how to push them away. She learned how to survive, but not how to thrive. She lives day-to-day because it's all she knows. She envies people with easier lives, but the road to prosperity means commitment and she's a free spirit.
Then Rose (or "Cri-cri" as she prefers to be called) finds envelopes full of money. And the mafia is involved. And there are corrupt politicians. And there are shady deals that bring the two together and Rose and her children are caught in the middle. And meanwhile life goes on, including the ever-present woes of Rose's friends who are all as screwed up as she is. They live on the edge; hook up with worthless (sometimes dangerous) men; have children and sometimes lose those children.
Four men enter her life. One is a handsome, young policeman who doesn't act much like a cop. One is a courtly older gentleman who wants to take care of her and her children, but doesn't want sex in return. (Exactly how old IS this guy?) And the other two are Mafioso who are sent to eliminate her, but can't seem to get the job done.
I'll be honest here. In order to enjoy this book, you'll have to suspend judgement and be prepared to accept some things that don't really add up. Rose lives in France. Her friends (and enemies) have French names and drink pastis, but they all speak impeccable British/American slang and NONE of them (to me) are believably French. If you're going to enjoy this book, you'll just have to sit back and let the craziness of Rose and the situations she gets into wash over you. Rose could be any color, any age, and living in any seedy neighborhood in any town in any country in the world. .
In the end, it's a book about the connection of a mother to her children. Rose's dead mother guides and comforts her with snatches of old songs and Rose carries on through thick and thin, defending her children and (barely) meeting their immediate needs. At one point she says, "The stroller was racing full speed ahead, but it was what pulled me forward and kept me upright." Rose's children (biological and acquired) keep her going. It's not textbook parenting, but then textbook parenting doesn't always work out either, does it? Maybe Rose's mother and the Beatles are right. Maybe "All You Need is Love."