Missy Schwartz
July 28, 2010 AT 04:00 AM EDT

My Hollywood

Current Status
In Season
Mona Simpson

We gave it an A-

What’s the psychological price of good mothering? Two very different characters chew on that question in Mona Simpson’s (Anywhere but Here) lovely new novel, My Hollywood. Claire is a composer and stay-at-home mom whose ambitious sitcom-writer husband is all but a ghost in their house. Lonely, creatively frustrated, and unable to cope with the challenges of parenting, she hires Lola, a 52-year-old Filipina nanny who takes care of rich American children so she can send money home to her own daughters. The two women narrate alternating chapters, and the contrast in their voices is a double-Dutch game of masterful writing: Claire, privileged and damaged, floats along in a daze of unfulfillment, while the ever-practical Lola observes her L.A. milieu with a realist’s eye in imperfect yet oddly poetic English. Both question their success as parents, but it’s the tender, persevering Lola who is the book’s true emotional pulse. ”Disney did not draw me,” she says, rejecting the comparison to that Technicolor fantasy nanny, Mary Poppins. ”And I refuse to dissolve into the sky.” True enough. A character as rich as Lola won’t easily fade from anyone’s mind. A?

See all of this week’s reviews

You May Like