Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Fallback Plan by Leigh Stein

The Fallback Plan
Good Reads Summary
A hilarious debut  novel about the tricky period between graduating from college and moving out of your parents’ house

What to do when you’ve just graduated from college and your plans conflict with those of your parents? That is, when your plans to hang out on the couch, re-read your favorite children’s books, and take old prescription tranquilizers, conflict with your parents plans that you, well, get a job?

Without a fallback plan, Eshter Kohler decides she has no choice but to take the job her mother has lined up for her: babysitting for their neighbors, the Browns.

It’s a tricky job, though. Six months earlier, the Browns’ youngest child died. Still, as Esther finds herself falling in love with their surviving daughter May, and distracted by a confusing romance with one of her friends, she doesn’t notice quite how tricky the job is … until she finds herself assuming the role of confidante to May’s mother Amy, and partner in crime to Amy’s husband Nate. Trapped in conflicting roles doomed to collide, Esther is forced to come up with a better idea of who she really is.

Both hilarious and heartbreaking, The Fallback Plan is a beautifully written and moving story of what we must leave behind, and what we manage to hold on to, as we navigate the treacherous terrain between youth and adulthood.

From the Trade Paperback edition

My Thoughts

Odd, her talking panda lives in a world that has a striking resemblance to Narnia. Esther claims to be writing a screenplay. Esther spends hours on end contemplating which disease she’d like contract to allow her to live on disability with her parents. Esther describes the state she's in as that of Weltschmerz (mental depression or apathy caused by a comparison of the actual state of the world with an ideal state; a mood of sentimental sadness.) Esther uses sentences like “if this were a movie” or if my life were a book.”

And given all that, Esther pissed me off but made me laugh. She pissed me off because~ I WAS her (and every so often do revert back to being like her when the mood hits.) At least she made me laugh. Her directionless self has a tendency to daydream, and it was all of the unlikely scenarios she came up with that had me laughing. What’s better is the funny did not end in her head… because everyone else around her was just as off balance as she was. Jack and Pickle on one hand then Amy, Nate and May on the other. In fact, everyone was so not normal, it was the kid who came across as the most well adjusted:

On Esther and Jack. Depressing. The girl has a tendency to not only imagine but also reminisce. She’d compare her present state to her ideal state enough to have her feeling down. But she also compared her present state to what was, making her just a little more depressed. Seeing her with him was depressing. Her romanticizing what they could, how they could be when in truth he is not that perfect, rather he’s so far from perfect.

On Esther and Amy and Nate and May. Sad. Their situation is sad and that is just about the only thing I can say. Esther enters the picture knowing fully well that tragedy had happened. She still does shitty things but surprisingly all the members of that family come to depend on her, need her. How odd/sad/unlikely is that?

What I liked most about this is how she’s funny and sad but not at the same time. More likely, she’s funny then sad and then funny then sad again. Add the fact that she just doesn't know what she wants. No, not really, she knows what she wants given her head to varied imaginary situations. It’s just all those things were all unlikely to take place.

What I disliked was that she felt too deeply and thought deeply… about herself, what she had, did not have, and wanted. Everything was all about her. There’s lack of perspective on her part that’s equal parts accurate, funny and annoying. Don’t get me wrong I had fun with her, I laughed when I was supposed to, but after some thought a little more consideration, I wanted her to get over it a little. But the thing is she does (get over it) ... eventually ... a little... because with Amy/May around her there's no choice but to do so.


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