cover image Laura & Emma

Laura & Emma

Kate Greathead. Simon & Schuster, $25 (352p) ISBN 978-1-5011-5660-1

In Greathead’s warmhearted debut novel, spanning 1980 to 1995, Laura, a quiet woman in her early 30s from Manhattan’s Upper East Side, attempts to balance her progressive ideals with the lavish lifestyle she lives thanks to a trust fund. After a one-night stand with her brother’s friend leads to pregnancy, Laura tries to forge a life for herself and her daughter, Emma, on her own terms—while also staying near home and accepting the help of her old-money family. The supporting characters who come in and out of Laura’s life over the years sparkle with idiosyncrasies, especially Laura’s mother, Bibs, and Emma’s devoted pediatrician. The novel is told in short scenes; major events can happen off the page, as with the death of a loved one, which is revealed by a scene set at the reception held after the funeral. Greathead is a talented writer of detail, particularly in her evocations of New York life—subway sobbing, could-be celebrity sightings, the joy of a favorite grocery store—and specifically of New York’s elite—board meetings, private preschool admissions, “the impermeable serenity of a Manhattan courtyard,” and the specific difference between an address on 96th and Park and 96th and Lexington. This is a thoughtful novel of trying to find oneself despite an assigned place in the world. Agent: Amy Williams, the Williams Company. (Mar.)