Preschooled by Anna Lefler
Behind the toddler-proof gate of Santa Monica’s exclusive Garden of Happiness, it’s the grown-ups who are getting schooled.
When new preschool parent Justine discovers that the man who broke her heart back in grad school is a dad in her daughter’s class, she tells herself she’s immune to the superficial charms of the ex she calls “the crapwizard.” But when his presence opens a time tunnel of potent memories from her life before motherhood, she must find a way to defuse her old attraction to him before it undermines her marriage.
Then there’s Ruben, rookie stay-at-home dad and standup comic who quits his day job to pursue his TV-writing dream on his wife’s condition that he take her place among the “power mommies” on the school committees.
And ruling the sand box with an iron fist is Margaret, whose ongoing divorce from her dentist-turned-New Age-surfer husband forces her to rely on her dubious people skills in order to keep the school that has become the cornerstone of her identity.
When the new school year kicks off with a flight-risk rabbit named Ozone, a school secretary in desperate need of a social filter, and some double-barreled committee recruiting tactics, it’s not all juice and cookies for Justine, Ruben, and Margaret as they struggle to play nice.
I enjoyed this book, but it really felt more like three parallel stories instead of one cohesive novel. The book follows the lives of three characters, all connected to the Garden of Happiness preschool. Margaret, the owner, is dealing with a messy divorce and trying to save her school from being sold, so her soon-to-be ex-husband can get his half of that asset. Justine, a new preschool mom, gets roped into being the chair of the school auction. She’s also dealing with her insecurities when an old boyfriend pops up and when a woman from the office starts making moves on her husband. Finally, Ruben is a stay-at-home dad rocking his preschool committee assignment and working on his sitcom script and stand-up comedy on the side.
I loved Ruben! He and his wife, Deandra, had such a positive and healthy relationship. I also loved his humor and his ability to work the moms. He was a great friend to everyone and a wonderful father. I was rooting for him throughout the book.
I identified a lot with Margaret. She is a high powered business woman who can be more than a little unfeeling with other people. Her world is crumbling, and she doesn’t know how to ask for help. She’s afraid of losing face with her preschool parents, but she’s pissing everyone off left and right, including her daughter. Her story was a little tough to read because the divorce was so ugly.
I could not stand Justine. It was painful to read her chapters. I wanted to stop her from making bad choices and ruining her marriage with her jealousy.
Overall, I wish the three stories had overlapped more. The pacing was a bit too slow for my taste, and some of the dialog was kind of awkward. I enjoyed the antics of preschool, although suburban Wisconsin is much different than Southern California.
My Rating: 3 Stars
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