"Art is not what you see, but what you make others see." Edgar Degas

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Review: Cutting Teeth by Julia Fierro



Julie Fierro’s Cutting Teeth is a messy book in the best possible way. Like the time of life it so accurately and lovingly depicts, it is a wet story. The pages drip with tears, spit, snot, blood, wine, beer, the salty waters of Long Island Sound and the juices of sex that create those little creatures around whom the action revolves.

Five couples, with their seven children and “Tibetan Mary Poppins” in tow, take up residence one Labor Day weekend in a house on the North Shore of Long Island that provides the evocative setting for this story.

The number of characters would make this a confusing read in the hands of a less skillful writer. The author was smart enough to include a useful character chart in the beginning of the book. You can't tell the players without a scorecard. The introduction of each parent and child as they make their way to the center of action reminded me of a stage play or screenplay. With the right ensemble cast this would make a memorable movie. 

There's a conspiratorial, almost voyeuristic, enjoyment in the intimate glimpses offered into the lives of these characters. As in this passage:

As he brought down the plates, his shirt lifted, and there was her favorite part of man - the hollow above hip bone and below ribs, where the pelvis arched like a rainbow down, down, down. 

Follow the rainbow.

It was easy. She took a few steps forward so she was in front of him, at the sink, the sponge and a soapy dish in her hands like props, like the wooden kitchen toys the children used. Make-believe time. His breath was hot on the back of her head. He was close, but still not close enough.

"You can just put them over there," she said, pointing to the far corner of the counter with a soapy finger, so he had to move into her - she as stationary as a block of stone. And it was so easy to take a little step back. How wrong could a baby step be, she thought, when nothing was even happening, there weren't doing anything, and when his dick pressed against her ass, they both froze, the hot steam from the running water billowing up into her face so her skin felt dewy. As if lost in a cloud.

Anyone who is raising, or has raised, children will recognize themselves and their friends in these frighteningly fallible characters, especially those Brooklynites who feel the ground shifting under their feet as they make the transition from recreation to responsibility. It stirred up sweet and sour memories for me. Mostly sweet.

Ms. Fierro's deft handling of her impressive cast makes them familiar without ever succumbing to the temptations of stereotype. Like the unanticipated people who drift in and out of our own lives, these individuals are almost painfully real. First published last year by St. Martin's Griffin, it's available now as a paperback, just in time for holiday giving to the mommies and daddies on your list.