A easy beach read about murderous mean-girl housewives – what could be a more amusing tale!
Turns out, just about anything. In Jennifer Weiner’s Goodbye Nobody, Kate Klein somehow finds herself as a stay-at-home mother of three in a dull suburb of New York City, despite her dreams of becoming a serious journalist and her love of the vibrant city lifestyle. Upchurch, Connecticut is full of Stepford wives whom Kate doesn’t relate to and whose circles she’s excluded from due to her inability to master the requisite housewife skills of planning perfect parties and always looking well-groomed in public. Her husband leaves her alone with their kids, and she spends her days shuttling them around and longing for a different life.
The sameness of suburbia is suddenly disrupted by the death of queen bee Kitty, whose body Kate stumbles across when bringing the kids over for a play-date. Because of a mysterious phone call she had with Kitty before her death, Kate is intrigued about the circumstances of her murder – especially since Kate’s ex-crush Evan may be a person of interest to the police. With her best friend’s assistance, Kate digs in to find the dirt about the seemingly-perfect community she lives in.
Despite the made-for-Lifetime-movie plot, this book falls flat in all aspects. Let’s start with Kate, who I guess is supposed to be an intelligent feminist type but turns out to be a judgmental fool. She’s constantly complaining about her life, how she’s a stay-at-home mom and her husband doesn’t treat her right and the other moms look down on her. But she has never tried to do part-time work, though they can afford a nanny, and she’s equally unfriendly and patronizing to the other women for not having had careers. And it’s not really surprising they don’t warm up to her since she’s just whines all the time about her “boring” life.
She finally decides to be a detective, but despite her claims to the contrary, is terrible at it. She simply goes around being nosy and making wild accusations until she stumbles across the murderer by accident, almost getting her husband fired from his job, herself sued for slander and libel, and her children killed in the process. She doesn’t really have any regard for her family beyond that either, falling into the arms of Evan once he shows back up without a thought to how it might tear her family apart or consideration for her husband who is committed to holding the marriage together. Even her investigation is conducted for her own selfish reasons, not to avenge Kitty, and she ignores all pleas for her to stop because of the danger to her kids.
All the supporting characters are pretty terrible too, from her best friend who spikes her mother’s drink with drugs to her absent mother to philandering husbands and wives abounding in the neighborhood. I think Weiner means all of these characters to add amusement to the plot, but they’re just the same-old caricatures of horrible people. Honestly, I was wondering throughout the book if Weiner had something against housewives and healthy eaters and the suburbs since she (via Kate) kept criticizing and making fun of them.
As I mentioned, the mystery is solved when the murderer is taken away, but Kate fails to develop as a character throughout the plot – in the end, she’s as self-absorbed as she was in the beginning. The only character I actually cared about was the deceased, whom I hope is resting in peace away from her annoying neighbors.