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Publisher's Summary

With wry candor and tender humor, acclaimed novelist Ayelet Waldman has crafted a strikingly beautiful novel for our time, tackling the absurdities of modern life and reminding us why we love some people no matter what.

For Emilia Greenleaf, life is by turns a comedy of errors and an emotional minefield. Yes, she's a Harvard Law grad who married her soul mate. Yes, they live in elegant comfort on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. But with her one-and-only, Jack, came a stepson, a know-it-all preschooler named William who has become her number one responsibility every Wednesday afternoon. With William, Emilia encounters a number of impossible pursuits, such as the pursuit of cab drivers who speed away when they see William's industrial-strength car seat and the pursuit of lactose-free, strawberry-flavored, patisserie-quality cupcakes, despite the fact that William's allergy is a figment of his over-protective mother's imagination.

As much as Emilia wants to find common ground with William, she becomes completely preoccupied when she loses her newborn daughter. After this, the sight of any child brings her to tears, and Wednesdays with William are almost impossible. When his unceasing questions turn to the baby's death, Emilia is at a total loss. Doesn't anyone understand that self-pity is a full-time job? Ironically, it is only through her blundering attempts to bond with William that she finally heals herself and learns what family really means.

©2006 Ayelet Waldman (P)2006 Books on Tape

Critic Reviews

"[An] honest, brutal, bitterly funny slice of life." (Publishers Weekly)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings


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  • Overall

Heart breaking, hopeful, and brilliant writing.

I loved this book. As a mother who lost a child, I found it authentic, unbearably sad, but also redemptive. The heroine, Emelia, was maddening in her inability to empathize with her five year old stepson, but also lovable with her wit and sarcasm. Her anger was hard to bear at times, but I remember my own so well after my child died 22 years ago.

It is an ode to motherhood, the tragedies of divorce and infidelity, and the ability of us all to bond with one another. Highly, highly recommend it but it is not for the faint of heart or for those unwilling to face the unbearable loneliness of grief

The narrator is wonderful -- a perfect match for the character and the tone.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Heidi
  • Dana Point, CA, USA
  • 10-24-06

Sweet--interesting psychological insights

I enjoyed this novel..the narrator is fantastic, and captures each character perfectly, particularly little William. I found it a bit depressing, but realistic, and appreciated the wise insights into human relationships that the tale provided. All in all, a worthwhile and entertaining read.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Patricia
  • Bayfield, Colorado United States
  • 03-28-06


This was a wonderful story and beautifully read. As a stepmother, I could identify. Though it was humorous, I also found myself with a lump in my throat several times.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • selena
  • Pamplin, VA, United States
  • 02-03-11

Good story

This was a good story about marriage and motherhood, especially for us neurotic women - gave me something to relate to. The story was very good but some of the bits became rambling, but they helped to define the idiosyncrasies of the characters so they we worth getting thought most times.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Truly awful

I read/listen voraciously, almost never quit. I've tried this twice, and it's not worth the effort. In fact, as a reader I think the writing is insipid, and as a listener I hate the narrator. As a woman lawyer, I hate the main character. Don't waste money/credits/time. Have you read Cutting for Stone? Now that's a treat...

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Real Life

As a stepmother and woman who's lost a child, I really love this book. It's not the most interesting of stories, but it's relatable and well-written. I enjoyed the narrator and the passion in which she told the story.