Review by Deb Czajkowski
Pretty Little World is the story of three families that geography brought together. Moving onto one of Philadelphia’s best row house streets, these three families─all strangers when each family purchased their tiny row house─quickly formed a unique bond that is so strong, it’s like family─the best kind of family.
Midwesterners Mark, Celia, and their three children, Ted, Lu, and Ollie, live on the left side of the triplex row house. Chris, Stephanie, and their son, Harvest, bought the center home. East Coasters Leo, Hope, and their daughter, Shoshanna, complete the triplex on the right side.
Until the day comes that Mark and Celia announce that they are selling their house. “Our house was tiny and crowded before we had Ollie,” they explain, “but now we really need more room, a larger space.”
“NO! You can’t move!”
“That will break up our family!”
“We can figure this out!”
So the idea begins to form: take down the inside walls that separate the three houses and make it one big house! The first floor would be shared space; the upstairs bedrooms would remain as they are, separate and still private. The three families who are as close as family would live together as one family, one big family in one big house.
Like a modern day Kibbutz? Interesting thought. But wouldn’t that change the family dynamics? Won’t familiarity breed contempt? Or at least seriously threaten the present harmony? And that’s only addressing the friendships between the three families. What impact might this communal living have on each individual family? On each marriage?
Pretty Little World is co-authored by Elizabeth LaBan and Melissa DePino. Is there a clear division of labor between the two authors? Is it obvious that each author wrote certain chapters? Are there two distinct plotlines that intertwine and converge? Not even a little! Pretty Little World is a well written, consistent, and entirely fluid novel.
But do authors LaBan and DePino make this concept─ three families who jell like, well, jello─ work? Is their Pretty Little World actually plausible? I say yes! Perhaps, though, more like tapioca─still jelled, but not quite so smooth, maybe a bit messier. Yes. Like a real family (or families, as the case may be).
I have a friend who is my sister in all the ways that truly count: not by blood, but heart-to-heart. We click─have from day one─on a level that not even blood can promise. I believe this concept would have worked for our families. So yes, I can envision the scenario.
Do you have a heart-sister? Does your family have an always together family? Does one of your kids have a bestie that she/he has had forever, and it seems like you hardly ever see one without the other? If yes, you can picture it, the bond. If not, imagine the possibility. Then read Pretty Little World for a peak in the window. You’ll love the view.
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About the authors:
Elizabeth LaBan is the author of The Tragedy Paper, which has been translated into eleven languages; The Grandparents Handbook, which has been translated into seven languages; and The Restaurant Critic's Wife. She lives in Philadelphia with her restaurant-critic husband and two children.
Melissa De Pino is the founding partner, principal, and editorial director of Leapfrog Group, a branding and marketing firm for nonprofits, and a former high school English teacher in Camden, New Jersey. She grew up in the suburbs of Philadelphia and earned degrees at both Villanova and Temple universities. She lives in Center City, Philadelphia, with her two sons. Pretty Little World is her first novel.
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