Diana McBride has been having a rough year. Her beloved husband, Tim, has left her, her alcoholic mother, Gloria, won't stop calling to berate her, and her job at the local baby store, Teddy's World, is hardly fulfilling. At 34, Diana realizes she is a far cry from the beauty queen she once was. To further complicate things, she's decided to stop her treatment for obsessive-compulsive disorder, allowing a series of rules and daily rituals to take over her already besieged life. What Diana doesn't know, however, is that one of her customers, the soon-to-be teenage mother Jamie Ramirez, is about to change her life.

In Little Beauties, National Book Award finalist Kim Addonizio lovingly constructs an unexpected friendship between Diana and Jamie, and leads her reader carefully through the women's drastically different, yet increasingly intertwined lives. Addonizio makes some bold choices by addressing two very sensitive subjects: living with OCD and teenage pregnancy. By dividing her book into alternating sections of narration from both women, and Jamie's unborn daughter, Stella, Addonizio creates a rich cast of characters, and shows us how even the most unlikely of friends have the power to dramatically alter each other's lives. Addonizio makes it easy to relate to her characters. Diana is immensely self-aware: she knows that her rigid lifestyle and obsession with cleanliness has driven her husband away, but she is unable to overcome her compulsions. Jamie is in many ways a normal teenager: she fights endlessly with her authoritative mother, misses her best friend who went away to college and more than anything, she does not want to have a baby. Yet somehow, Diana and Jamie offer each other the support they need to overcome their individual struggles.

Fast-paced, insightful and full of life, Little Beauties transforms two women into unexpected heroes, inspiring us to fully appreciate the tenacity of friendship.

Abby Plesser writes from New York City.

 

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