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ARE WE THERE YET?
March 16, 2021
Alice Sullivan feels like she’s finally found her groove in middle age, but it only takes one moment for her perfectly curated life to unravel. On the same day she learns her daughter is struggling in second grade, a call from her son’s school accusing him of bullying throws Alice into a tailspin.
When it comes to light that the incident is part of a new behavior pattern for her son, one complete with fake social media profiles with a lot of questionable content, Alice’s social standing is quickly eroded to one of “those moms” who can’t control her kids. Soon she’s facing the very judgement she was all too happy to dole out when she thought no one was looking.
Then her mother unloads a family secret she’s kept for more than thirty years, and Alice’s entire perception of herself is shattered.
As her son’s new reputation polarizes her friendships and her family buzzes with the ramification of her mother’s choices, Alice realizes that she’s been too focused on measuring her success and happiness by everyone else’s standards. Now, with all her shortcomings laid bare, she’ll have to figure out who to turn to for help and who she wants to be.
Le sigh. It’s so hard for me to write this review. I loved Kathleen’s West previous book, Minor Dramas and Other Catastrophes. It was such an engaging and thoughtful exploration of parenting, high school, popularity, family, and connection. I was expecting more of the same from Are We There Yet? And while West did manage to create another engaging, emotionally- and situationally-complex story, in the end, my biggest gripe about Are We There Yet? is that I was so disappointed with where the characters ended up. Poor Alice gets served nothing but a garbage sandwich for the entire book, and even though it was all such a DOWNER, I tolerated it, because I thought she’d have her “Wait! I matter! You can’t treat me like that!” moment. But that moment never came, and I couldn’t understand her decisions, and especially her willingness to be bullied. By, like, everyone. Constantly.
I don’t want to give away too much, but I’ll say that the ending was completely unsatisfying. Yes, there is resolution. But the people who treated Alice so badly never get told what’s up. Alice never stands up for herself in a clear, adult, meaningful way. She just takes the abuse until she throws a tantrum like a toddler, disengages, apologizes to everyone else, and then…that’s it. No one else takes accountability. No one else apologizes. (Don’t even get me started on her mother…) There’s just a weird unspoken acknowledgment that, well, people behaved badly and it’s best not to talk about it. Let’s all move on…separately. I just don’t get it. I finished the book and felt angry and sad for Alice and her family. And irritated about the time I wasted reading this book. I’m sorry to say that I just wasn’t a fan of this one.
Thank you to Net Galley and Berkley for the ARC.