Friday, January 15, 2010

NANNY RETURNS by Emma McLaughlin and Nikola Kraus

I remember when NANNY DIARIES was one of the hot books back in 2000.  It was marketed as a snarky darkly comic look into the hidden world of the New York City nanny.  And I hated it. It was so incredibly disturbing. The way the NYC mothers were portrayed made them look like something just short of child abusers.  And maybe that is how they should be portrayed. I do not doubt that NANNY DIARIES held more than a few grains of truth in it. I just didn't enjoy the ride.  So, it was with some trepidation and a good bit of curiousity that I picked up NANNY RETURNS at the library.

It is twelve years after the first book and Nan has married the "Harvard Hottie" and has returned to NYC with her husband to work on growing her consulting business and renovate a crumbling brownstone in Harlem. One night, Nan answers a knock on her door and finds a drunken confused 16-year-old Grayer who asks her why she left him when he was four.  Nan decides that fate has given her the chance to right some wrongs with Grayer and gets caught up in the lives of the Xes once again.

I liked NANNY RETURNS much more than the first book.  The first book felt like one big chance for a former nanny to get back at her former employers.  This book felt much more mature and thoughtful. Nan's consulting work involves her with a prestigious school that values appearances more than discipline and points to many problems with schools of the more privileged segments of society today.  They have become places where it is more important to bestow a sense of entitlement on kids rather than teach them to be responsible individuals within society.

Nan also struggles with whether or not to have children as a result of what she saw during her nannying days. Her attempts to help Grayer and his little brother become a kind of penance for how she handled the situation with the Xes.  The Xes are on their way to divorce and the book is filled with hints at how the affluent world of these privileged New Yorkers is crumbling due to the banking crisis and bad investments in mysterious pyramid schemes. Nan must work to keep Grayer and his brother from falling through the cracks as their parents become more and more self-absorbed and lost in their own concerns.

BOTTOM LINE:  Recommended. This is a quick and entertaining read.  It doesn't feel as angry as the first book although there are plenty of cringe-worthy parenting scenes in the book.  You won't find a literary masterpiece here but you will find an entertaining vacation read.


Diane said...

Can't wait for your review. I just got this one today.

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Genevieve said...

I just finished this one this morning, and I also liked it SO MUCH more than the first one. Aside from the story being better, I also feel like the authors' writing style has relaxed a bit and improved from the first book.

Amy said...

I agree, Vieve. Much improved.