Jennifer Close's second novel has made me fall in love with her a bit. While I loved Girls in White Dresses, I LOVED The Smart One.
The Coffeys easily represent many American families. Just as Weezy and Will think they are empty nesters their three adult children move back home, each confronted with a challenge they need their parents help to solve.
Martha, the oldest child, struggles with her nursing career. Claire's engagement has just been called off. Even Max, the youngest, and only boy, faces struggles that send him and his girlfriend Cleo back to his parents' house.
Weezy, Claire, Martha and Cleo each take turns narrating various chapters and miraculously I could relate to every single one of these women. Close accurately captured the family dynamics of the Coffeys- the petty arguments that arise when adult children move back home and feel as though they are children once more. The worry the parents face as they hold their breath, hoping for their children to find their way once more. The realization that adulthood is hard work.
I debated with myself quite a while about which character Close is referring to in her title The Smart One. As I read, I eventually decided that there is more than just one "smart one." Weezy was always considered the smart one by her father, while her sister Maureen was expected to marry well. Cleo was always considered the smart one in her family, a girl who followed the rules and did well in school. Claire is smart in the sense that she is able to take care of herself and is expected to always do well. Martha is smart in school, yet struggles with relationships and relating to people.
The Smart One is a realistic look at one families ups and downs, joys and sorrows. There is humor and heartbreak, and I find myself still thinking about the Coffeys and what is going on in their lives.