“The Descendants” Author Kaui Hart Hemmings is On Fire
Hemmings’ latest is partly written as an entry in a cookbook contest for mothers.
Photo: David Croxford
Like a reef fish whose coloration changes to match its background, author Kaui Hart Hemmings can sneak up on you—bringing tragedy, pathos, humor before you know it. But not in her fourth novel, in which she takes a story that is pure “mommy lit,” crosses it with a San Francisco Pride and Prejudice plot and sets the whole thing on fire. Told in the rollicking voice of a potty-mouthed single mother, How to Party With an Infant (Simon & Schuster, 2016; $26) is about Mele and daughter Ellie, whose father is a chef engaged to a Napa cheesemaker (and doesn’t that say it all?). A single mom marooned among surgically contoured, scarily competitive Silicon Valley mothers, Mele has only one thing going for her: her wit, which she exercises indiscreetly. “Has your husband ever asked to use your breast pump just for fun? Like, in a foreplay kind of way?” Being from Hawai‘i is no help to Mele, but the reader who recognizes a local lilt in the snarky wordplay may share a secret smile.
What also keeps Mele going is her playground group of fellow misfits—including Henry, whose “manicured, top-of-the-line” wife cheats with “a married friend who is quite famous in the city for being the son of someone rich.” But as we root for Mele and Henry, laughing at the spats between earnest tribes of mothers, we know that Hemmings, who lives on the Windward Side and is the mother of two, is the real life of this party.