Review: Cutting Teeth, by Julia Fierro

About the book, Cutting Teeth Cutting Teeth by Julia Fierro

Hardcover: 336 pages

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press (May 13, 2014)

One of the most anticipated debut novels of 2014, Cutting Teeth takes place one late-summer weekend as a group of thirty-something couples gather at a shabby beach house on Long Island, their young children in tow.

Nicole, the hostess, struggles to keep her OCD behaviors unnoticed. Stay-at-home dad Rip grapples with the reality that his careerist wife will likely deny him a second child, forcing him to disrupt the life he loves. Allie, one half of a two-mom family, can’t stop imagining ditching her wife and kids in favor of her art. Tiffany, comfortable with her amazing body but not so comfortable in the upper-middle class world the other characters were born into, flirts dangerously, and spars with her best friend Leigh, a blue blood secretly facing financial ruin and dependent on the magical Tibetan nanny everyone else covets. Throughout the weekend, conflicts intensify and painful truths surface. Friendships and alliances crack, forcing the house party to confront a new order.

Cutting Teeth is about the complex dilemmas of early midlife—the vicissitudes of friendship, of romantic and familial love, and of sex. It’s about class tension, status hunger, and the unease of being in possession of life’s greatest bounty while still wondering, is this as good as it gets? And, perhaps most of all, Julia Fierro’s warm and unpretentious debut explores the all-consuming love we feel for those we need most, and the sacrifice and compromise that underpins that love.

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About the author, Julia Fierro Julia Fierro

Julia Fierro’s debut novel, Cutting Teeth, was listed as one of the “Most Anticipated Books of 2014” by HuffPost Books, The Millions, Flavorwire, Brooklyn Magazine, and Marie Claire. Her work has been published, or is forthcoming, in Guernica, Ploughshares, Poets & Writers, Glamour, and other publications, and she has been profiled in the L Magazine, The Observer, and The Economist.

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My Thoughts

Julia Fierro is an awesome writer.

I know that sounds really flippant, but seriously, she’s created this group of “mommies,” – a bunch of women, and one man – who are largely unlikeable, self-entitled, damaged people, and managed to make their lives and stories not only seem interesting, but in the process also made them into characters we can care about.

As a child-free woman in her early forties, I’m pretty certain Cutting Teeth was not written with me in mind, and, in truth, I found myself wanting to knock some sense into these people, make them wake up and realize that while their children really are not the little princes and princesses of the world, they are, in fact, actual (very small, unformed) people, and should be treated accordingly.

I also had to fight urges to crawl into the book and remind these women that it’s unhealthy (and kind of annoying) when women describe themselves as Moms or Mommies first, and only talk about their careers or the rest of their interests as things they squeeze in around the child. (This tendency annoys me in real life, as well.)

If these two statements make it seem like I didn’t “like” this book, you’re misreading. I did like it. I liked it well enough that even though I felt rather like a bug-eyed alien looking into a strange, new, world, I could accept these characters as people who could exist outside the scope of their pages.

And speaking of pages, Julia Fierro crafts an excellent story. The constant changing of POV means we get to see the way each character perceives herself, and the way each of them is perceived by the others. As well, while the women are incredibly three-dimensional, she did a good job of not making the men interchangeable hipsters or guys in pastel golf shirts and khakis (a peeve of mine that often comes up around this type of year.) Rip, the father in the group of “mommies,” Michael, and Josh are all just as dimensional as the women in their lives.

And yes, these people are largely unlikeable, so it’s pretty amazing that you end up feeling for them at the end. Cutting Teeth has struck the sweet spot of summer reading. Fast-paced enough to take to the beach, it’s also meaty enough to really sink your teeth into (no pun intended). Read it. You might find yourself shaking your fist at the characters, but you won’t be disappointed in the story.

Goes well with homemade lemonade and tuna-fish sandwiches. Followed by cocktails.

TLC Book Tours

This review is part of a blog tour sponsored by TLC Book Tours. For more information, and the complete list of tour stops, click HERE.