CUTTING TEETH by Julia Fierro

Oh, the delicious sendup of Brooklyn parenting that takes place in Cutting Teeth by Julia Fierro!

Take five families from the same playgroup, send them to a beach house on Long Island for a weekend, and watch the sparks fly. The cast of characters: Nicole, an anxious, OCD mother to a 4 year-old boy; Susannah and Allie, a lesbian couple with 4 year-old twins who are expecting another baby; Rip, a stay-at-home dad with a 4 year-old boy; Tiffany, mom to a 4 year-old girl and the mom who doesn’t quite fit in; and Leigh, mom to a 4 year-old boy (who is possibly on the spectrum) and an infant girl, who brings her nanny along to help her cope. However, although there are certainly a lot of caricatures here, Fierro surprisingly makes most of these characters pretty sympathetic by the end of the book.

Fierro layers the minutiae of parenting – from slathering sunblock and preparing snacks to dealing with tantrums and bossy kids – with the big issues facing the couples. Allie is an absentee parent and Susannah wants to move to the ‘burbs. Rip’s sperm don’t work, but his wife doesn’t want another kid or to go through IVF again. Leigh is a trust fund baby who has run out of cash and embezzled money from the pre-school PTA. Tiffany is hiding her white trash roots, trying to fit in among the fancy Brooklyn moms who attend her toddler music classes. And Nicole is hiding a secret: she is traumatized by a rumor of the apocalypse that she learned about on and keeps survival bags packed in the trunk of her car.

Over the course of the weekend, parenting styles will clash, secrets will be exposed, infidelity will occur, and a child will wander off, causing a police-driven manhunt. And the couples (and in one case, two friends) will confront the tough issues bubbling right under the surface. It isn’t really accurate to call Cutting Teeth a satire, given Fierro’s ultimate kindness to these stressed out, self-absorbed parents. But her writing is sharp and her observations so accurate that no one (save Tenzin, the Tibetan nanny) emerges unscathed. She nails the stress and exhaustion of modern parenting and pushes her playgroup to their limits.

If you have little kids, or live in Brooklyn, or know people who have little kids and/or live in Brooklyn, then I’d suggest picking up Cutting Teeth. And even if you don’t, I suspect you’ll still enjoy this smart novel.

Depressing-O-Meter: 6 out of 10. Lots of stressful and anxiety-inducing stuff in here, but I wouldn’t really call it depressing.