"The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." — Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Keeper and Kid by Edward Hardy

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Summary: James Keeper is stunned to discover he and his ex-wife have fathered a child together and he is the legal guardian of their three-year-old son, after her sudden death. 

Most women have 9 months to adjust to the idea that they will become a parent; James Keeper has one week.

Keeper, as his friends call him, is summoned to the hospital by his ex-mother-in-law. His ex-wife Cynthia had a stroke and wants Keeper to take custody of their dog Arrow, whom Keeper lost in the divorce.

Leah, Keeper's current girlfriend, is reluctant to take on a dog and since they just moved in together, Keeper lets Leah choose all the paint colors in their house to make it up to her about the dog he's planning to go and pick up next week.

But when Keeper arrives to pick up Arrow, his ex-sister-in-law Gracie is sitting on the front steps in tears. Arrow ran away last week and can't be found. Keeper is stunned, angry and a little relieved, and pleased that Gracie is so upset about Arrow. But Gracie isn't crying over Arrow, she's crying because Cynthia is dead.  Dead?!

And then a young child with Cynthia's eyes and Keeper's chin wanders outside. In the span of 15 minutes, Keeper finds out that Cynthia has conceived his child, and kept the baby a secret all these years and made Keeper the guardian, in event of her death. Cynthia always was secretive, but to hide their child?! Keeper is overwhelmed, angry, grieving for Cynthia and mystified about how to care for his three-year-old son, Leo.

So Keeper takes Leo home, somehow forgetting to tell Leah that he's bringing his child home to live with them. When Leah comes back from her business trip, she finds Leo installed in her home office and Keeper distracted with the child of his dead ex-wife. Keepr had all this time to tell her, but never thought to call her about adding a child to their lives.

Dumped, Keeper falls into a strange post-partum depression and Leo struggles with a new home, potty-regression, the loss of his mother, and Keeper's well-intentioned neglect.
On the front steps he said: 
"You're really not taking very good care of me."
"I'm trying, " I said. "I get points for trying."
"What points?"
Slacking at work and losing money, moping over Leah, and constantly sleep-deprived, Keeper falls apart. His friends confront him, knowing how bad he is at asking for help. When he lets people help, life becomes much easier. He introduces Leo to his grandparents, a blessing for all involved, and his friends offer to babysit, help him find a day care and encourage him to move on.

But Keeper is still obsessed with Leah, and embarks on a mission to win her back.
"I can't do this alone, I thought." 
And there is Keeper's major mistake. He even has a one night stand with his ex-sister-in-law Gracie, when she visits to see Leo and help out. He seems to see any and every woman as an acceptable mother substitute so he doesn't have to do the hard work of parenting.

Keeper's love campaign to win Leah back fell on the stalking side of the secret admirer line for me, and I couldn't understand why Keeper refused to acknowledge that some women (and men) are not cut out for parenthood. Despite Leah's fervent declarations that she does not want kids, Keeper brushes that aside, because he so wants Leah back in her life. When someone breaks up with you, they don't want to be with you - and Leah was very clear that she never wanted kids.

While Keeper certainly has the sleep-deprivation, exasperation and pride that all parents do, his blindness to the fact that he can't go back to his old life, yet fully expects that if he works hard enough he can have it ALL just made me angry. Only a male author would think that you can suddenly get a kid (from your ex-wife, no less) and still win back a wife who's never wanted kids. A woman author would never have such an implausible ending. It was tender, but unrealistic.

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