Cara Nielsen is a mother taking on the big city alongside her husband. This contemporary novel follows Cara as she struggles to raise two toddlers while balancing her anxiety and depression.
This novel reminds me of Everything, Everywhere, All at Once without the multiverse factor. Cara is juggling depression, discontent, anxiety, and paranoia over worst-case scenarios regarding her children. Cara struggles to connect with her own children without anyone else helping her out. Cara is isolated from any sort of extended family, and her husband works as the sole breadwinner. As much as she loves her kids, being a mother isn’t something she instantly learns how to cope with. At the same time, she has friends, goes to therapy, and has a life outside of being a housewife and a mother. She loves going to the movies, for example. Movies are a sort of escapism for her, but they sell her a lie, glamorizing life in the big city.
Cara is trying to figure out what being a mother and what being herself mean. She used to be a working woman, a journalist and a movie reviewer. With two kids, however, she has to balance her new life while trying to keep elements of the life she used to have. Cara says that motherhood adds a whole new dimension to her understanding of life.
The contemplative nature of the book makes the events seem very slice-of-life at first–until Cara gets caught up in a whirlwind of crisis after crisis involving her circle of friends. Cara stands in the eye of a metaphorical hurricane, while her friends deal with their marriages falling apart and other personal issues, all while Cara is trying to keep her own life together.
The Catholic themes in this novel are quite prominent. Cara goes to church along with her family, and there are scenes where a priest gives a sermon that ties into the overall themes of the novel. Cara also develops a devotion to Saint Augustine and turns to his wisdom quite often. Cara’s faith gives her some sense of stability and helps her when she gets caught in the hurricane.
I recommend this novel for readers who like a slow-burn drama and enjoy character studies. Catholic mothers who are raising young children will particularly enjoy this read, even if they don’t live in a big city, because the setting is quite immersive.