As an introvert, reading the description for "Pretty Little World" by Elizabeth LaBan and Melissa DePino gave me shivers - three families combine their homes and disaster / self discovery ensues. Throughout reading the book I just couldn't stop thinking - how could anyone just give up their space, privacy, and in my case, sanity like that? And then I'd catch myself, because on the other hand as a mom, I can absolutely relate to the need for assistance from "the village", and how dependent you can be on others for your household to run.
Pretty Little World
by Elizabeth LaBan and Melissa DePino
On a cozy street in Philadelphia, three neighboring families have become the best of friends. They can’t imagine life without one another—until one family outgrows their tiny row house. In a bid to stay together, a crazy idea is born: What if they tear down the walls between their homes and live together under one roof? And so an experiment begins.
Celia and Mark now have the space they need. But is this really what Celia’s increasingly distant husband wants? Stephanie embraces the idea of one big, happy family, but has she considered how it may exacerbate the stark differences between her and her husband, Chris? While Hope always wanted a larger family with Leo, will caring for all the children really satisfy that need?
Behind closed doors, they strive to preserve the closeness they treasure. But when boundaries are blurred, they are forced to question their choices…and reimagine the true meaning of family.
"Pretty Little World" follows three couples and their families. Readers beware, the first chapters are a huge whirlwind of parents' names, kids' names, occupations, and complicated relationships! About twenty pages into reading this book, I sat it down to grab a piece of paper, because I desperately needed to draw a chart. As I continued to read, some of the characters became more solid and defined, but others continually meshed together for me. Part of that, I think, is my own failing as a reader ( drawing charts is a common strategy for me in books with easily confused characters, anybody else?). But much like the undeveloped plan the families cobbled together to combine their homes, some of the characters just felt underdeveloped and mechanical at times.
A few of the characters I did really enjoy, though - in fact, one of the characters I found most interesting in the book was Nikki, who isn't mentioned in the summary. Nikki is not part of the three families, she recently moved to the neighborhood to be with her fiancee. As an outsider looking into this weird cliquish thing happening, just like the reader, I was intrigued by her perspective. Nikki also had one of my favorite quotes from the book, as well:
" He's barely here anyway, and he's so focused on his job that I feel like I could switch souls with someone, and as long as my body was here to have sex with and to say good morning to every once in a while, he wouldn't even notice I was gone."
Yikes, right? Nikki's goes on to do some pretty troubling things and plays a role in the downfall of the communal living set up. So while I wasn't a huge fan of her choices, her story line was certainly unexpected and intriguing.
The thought I had most frequently reading "Pretty Little World" was just how important your own space is, and the book does a good job of showing why that is - in marriages, friendships, and for each person as an individual. For example, when the characters from different marriages came together to help each other, one of the benefits of their living situation, it felt like it was only for the purpose of a romantic relationship developing between the unmarried partners. To me, it was quickly obvious that this set up wouldn't last for long.
Towards the end of the book, one of the characters loses it on the nosy neighbor shouting that if she would just mind her own business, that their lives together wouldn't have been ruined. Which is of course ridiculous- the set up was doomed from the start, but not for the reasons I'd have suspected. Because beyond my own need for private time and space, the biggest problem for me in the book were the kids. The kids are very much background characters in the book, but in reality they are such a big part of a parent's life and logically a huge player in decision making. It seemed like there was very little discussion about how this huge move together would impact them. And for me, my son is why, no matter how introverted I am I don't think this set up would ever work for me. I can't take care of others kids like they are my own- and the writers did an excellent job exploring that idea.
Besides some disappointing plot holes (there was a ton of build up of conflict between two characters, Mark and Celia, and then we weren't privy to the conversation that they finally had about their problem! Really!?!) overall I did enjoy reading this book. It raised some interesting points and questions about how and where we draw the line as families and individuals- what is private, shared, and why. "Pretty Little World" has a lot of potential and such an interesting message- but at times the dots just weren't connected and the writing made it difficult to find those moments for me. Despite some frustrations, "Pretty Little World" represented and explored many angles of the complicated relationships of adults- a family and an individuals need for space, and the connections we make that can bolster or break us.
Have you read "Pretty Little World"? What did you think about their decision to live communally? Why would this living set up work/ not work for you? Thinking about reading the book? Click here to find a copy at your local library or click the link below to view the book on Amazon.com.
Many thanks to Lake Union Publish and Little Bird Publicity for allowing me to read this book prior to publication. As a "girl about library", where books are always free, you can be sure that all opinions expressed are my own. Happy reading!