Weezy Coffey was labeled the “smart one,” while growing up; her sister Maureen, on the other hand, was the “pretty one,” who would “marry well.” Did these labels define their lives? Weezy (Louise) tended to do the opposite of what her parents decreed, so in a sense, perhaps they did.
Now she is the matriarch of a family comprised of three grown children, partnered with Will, who is a kind man and a good father. It seems she did marry well, after all, while Maureen was divorced early and raised her children alone.
The story begins with Claire, the middle “child,” late twenties, living in New York. Her world has imploded. Despite the fact that she, the “smart one,” has a good education and a good job. She is drowning in credit card debt and expecting eviction any day. Partially because her boyfriend, who shared the apartment and the rent, broke up with her and moved out, cancelling their wedding. She spends weekends holed up in her apartment like a hermit.
Martha, the oldest, still lives at home with her parents. A year older than Claire, she is obsessed with worrying and stresses about almost everything.
Max, the youngest, seems to be age-appropriate and is soon to graduate college. His gorgeous girlfriend Cleo, however, is a mystery to the family. When she joins them all at the shore, she confidently displays her body on every occasion imaginable by wearing her bikini…all the time! Even at dinner.
This mix of characters kept me turning pages as I read their stories from their perspectives throughout The Smart One. Whenever I was ready to dislike one of them, as I saw them from another’s eyes, I soon felt some sympathy for them when I read their point of view.
When the three adult children, along with Cleo, find themselves living in the family home in a suburb outside of Philadelphia, all at the same time, chaos will ensue. Will Weezy’s well-ordered world turn itself into an uncontrollable mess? Why do the two oldest “girls” suddenly morph into teenagers, whining and screaming? How does Weezy suddenly find herself trying to control every thought and feeling that they have? And why does she feel the need to coddle Martha, spotlighting every minor achievement as if it were something remarkable?
While I could see all kinds of ways Weezy could have handled the situation better, I could also relate to having that almost empty nest turn into madness, having had my share of “returning” adult children over the years.
Eventually, some resolutions were reached, but not through anything particularly insightful done by any of the characters. Living rent-free helped with credit card debt, but none of them actually seemed to have made any real changes. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the book and couldn’t wait to see what would happen. Four stars.