Prospect Park Books
July 8, 2014
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“Famous Baby is inventive, hysterical, and touching. Karen Rizzo wraps a timeless drama about the love between mothers and daughters in a fresh, snappy package for the social media age.” —CHRISTINA SCHWARZ, author of The Edge of the Earth and Drowning Ruth, an Oprah’s Book Club Selection
Before there were Real Housewives and Tiger Moms, the was Ruth Sternberg, the hugely popular First Mother of Mommy Blogging—or, as Ruth’s daughter, Abbie prefers to call her, the First Lady of Cyber Exploitation.
Eighteen year-old Abbie has finally found her way out of the limelight, by moving a solid five hundred miles away from Ruth and her “maternal instincts.” But when she hears that her ailing, beloved grandmother is moving in with Ruth, she suspects that her mother has found a new blog subject to exploit. Abbie kidnaps Grandma to save her from the same fate, and thus begins an uproarious battle of wills. Famous Baby wisely and hilariously explores mother love, identity, and the hazards of parental over-sharing in the social media age.
Karen Rizzo's Famous Baby was a different story than I was expecting, but one I enjoyed very much. Abbie Sternberg grew up with her every moment, happy to horribly embarrassing and everything in between, shared with the world by her mother. As the First Mother of Mommy Blogging, Abbie's mother Ruth started blogging before most even knew what it was. While the blog did bring her notoriety and wealth, it drove her daughter away.
Now eighteen and finally on her own, away from her mother's over-sharing, Abbie is finally free. Until, that is, she learns that, in her absence, her beloved grandmother is to become Ruth's new blogging focus.
Kidnapping her grandmother is the only thing Abbie can think to do. Yet, it's not likely to make Ruth give up.
Ruth and Abbie appear to be two very different people. Abbie wants nothing more than her privacy; to live her life without its every moment part of a post or interview. Her mother, meanwhile, seems to almost need to share every moment of her daughter's life. Their relationship is complicated and, as we get farther into the story, we see some examples of why.
While Abbie's story is known - to the world and to readers - the more we learn of Ruth, the more there seems to be to her character. Whether it's that she's more oblivious and self-centered than thought at first glance, or whether there's something we (and Abbie) don't know about her, is the question.
Famous Baby does a fantastic job dealing with not only Ruth and Abbie's relationship but also Abbie's relationship with her grandmother. Through Abbie's interactions with Esther, Esther's thoughts and comments about her daughter, Ruth, and the interactions of Abbie, her friends, and Esther we see more of all the characters. Rizzo did a great job creating characters who are not what you would expect them to be. Each has depth, a unique story and something that they contribute to the story of the other characters.
Yes, this novel will make you think about possible over-sharing digitally, but more than that it will make you think about your relationships and both death and life. Though not a 'light' story, with serious issues, complex characters, and emotion, Rizzo's humor is both needed and enjoyed.
arc received from publisher, as part of LibraryThing's Early Reviewers program, for review