Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Latest Read: Substitute Me

Goodreads Summary:
Zora Anderson is a 30-year-old African American middle class, college educated woman, trained as a chef, looking for a job. As fate would have it, Kate and Craig, a married couple, aspiring professionals with a young child are looking for a nanny.

Zora seems perfect. She’s an enthusiastic caretaker, a competent house keeper, a great cook. And she wants the job, despite the fact that she won’t let her African American parents and brother know anything about this new career move. They expect much more from her than to use all that good education to do what so many Blacks have dreamed of not doing: working for White folks. Working as an au pair in Paris, France no less, was one thing, they could accept that. Being a servant to a couple not much older nor more educated, is yet another. Every adult character involved in this tangled web is hiding something: the husband is hiding his desire to turn a passion for comic books into a business from his wife, the wife is hiding her professional ambitions from her husband, the nanny is hiding her job from her family and maybe her motivations for staying on her job from herself.

Memorable characters, real-life tensions and concerns and the charming—in a hip kind of way—modern-day Park Slope, Fort Greene, Brooklyn setting make for an un-put-down-able read.

My two cents:
I really enjoyed this book.  I had a few qualms with some predictable (and cliche) turns in the plot.  Yet, I think the gravity of the issues that many women and families face today (juggling work, relationships, and domestic chores) really overshadow those qualms.  It would be a great novel to use for a book club - so many areas to discuss (racial and identity issues, gender issues, and concerns about the modern two-income familial situation).  All in all, I highly recommend this book to folks who enjoy modern general fiction!

4/5 stars


  1. The book description really grabs me. I'm curious to know how the author tells Zora's story of being an educated African American woman working for Kate and Craig. What issues does this bring up for her? With her family? And for Kate and Craig? And not to mention all the secrets! This definitely sounds like a book I would enjoy reading.

  2. Yes, it was an interesting and enjoyable read. Lots of meaty bits to ponder as well. Let me know how you like it if you read it sometime!