Anyway, I remember really enjoying this book, one of the few I read with a male protagonist. I was really excited to reread this one, as I’m the mom of an almost two year old and I was interested in reading a fictionalized version of parenthood now that I know the truth of that first year…..but to the recap, shall we?
This book begins with our protag, Tim Weber, an 18 year old high school senior telling his dad that he (Tim) got his girlfriend pregnant and is suing for custody of the l’il bastard. (OK, l’il bastard is my language, not his). Seems that the GF, Cheryl is trying to give the baby up for adoption. Tim hired a lawyer, who happens to be his dad’s best friend, to represent him in the custody case. Tim’s dad is a curmudgeon. He has no idea why Tim is doing this. Ever since Tim’s mom died six years earlier he and his dad have had problems getting along. They kind of just exist together. Tim is going to leave for New York City in the fall to attend Columbia, which will be a big change from the teeny tiny town of Haysburg, MA where he currently lives.
We have an uncomfortable court hearing between Cheryl, the prospective adoptive parents (The Sidels) and Tim. Tim wins his case, mainly based on the fact that Cheryl was going to sell the l’il bastard to the Sidels rather than go through any pesky legal means. Did I mention Cheryl’s dad is a garbage collector and they live in a mobile home and she is the youngest of five? Oh, and Tim is a Columbia-bound son of a college professor (dad) and college librarian (mom). Tim’s dad think Cheryl may have gotten preggers on purpose to snag Tim into marriage. But to no avail. Tim just isn’t ready for marriage at 18. But he IS ready for single parenthood.
Summertime comes and Tim prepares for the arrival of the l’il bastard. He buys a portable crib, some diapers and a few outfits. That’s it. Here’s an incomplete list of what I bought and/or received as gifts in the months before I had my kid: crib, pack & play, dresser, changing table, car seat, stroller, enough outfits to fill a dresser, toys, carrier, sling, books, mobile, breast pump, nursing pads, bottles, diapers, burp cloths, towels, washcloths, infant medicine, baby shampoo, baby lotion, diaper genie with refills, blankets, crib sheets, diaper bag…..Anyway. Back to the book!
The l’il bastard is born. It’s a boy who Tim names Mason, which is his mother’s maiden name. I guess since he has a name and identity now, I’ll stop calling him the l’il bastard, sigh. So Tim and Mason have one month of co-existing with Tim’s dad before they leave for New York City. In that month, Tim’s dad seems to soften up. He tells Tim that they are in this together and makes a schedule so that each of them can get a reasonable amount of sleep. He’s actually pretty sad then when Tim and Mason leave for the big city.
Tim arrives in NYC and takes up residence in a seedy motel. He can’t live in the dorms with a baby, obviously, and his own apartment is slightly out of his budget (he has an inheritence from his mom, which was to be used for his education, but he was accepted full scholarship to Columbia). He tries to find a roommate, but everyone is turned off by living with a baby. Even the old people looking for a boarder. Eventually, he charms (kind of) his way in to a four bedroom apartment with three other Columbia students. All girls. One (Fern) is kind of punk and not there very often, another (Lindsey) is very sweet, but is premed, so she isn’t there often either. The third (Vivian) is a hardcore feminist, who was against allowing Tim to move in with Mason.
Tim has a hard time adjusting to a full course load and caring for a baby, and eventually has to drop chemistry, his best class in high school. He finds a nice babysitter during the weekdays who helps by getting Mason on a good sleep schedule. Thanksgiving comes and Tim decides not to go home for the break, thinking he’d like to have the apartment to himself (and Mason). Tim’s dad is upset and decides he’ll make the trip to NY to visit Tim and Mason. But then….duh duh duuuuhhh…we learn that Vivian is going to be staying that weekend and she had been looking forward to having the apartment to herself. Oh well….
Tim’s dad comes, they have nice dinner. They catch Vivian with her ex-boyfriend in a post-coital frenzy and they join Tim, his dad and Mason for Thanksgiving dinner. Vivian’s ex-boyfriend is an animal. He is rude and demeaning and talks with his mouth full of food. Tim and his dad are grossed out by this guy and Viv is embarrassed. Other than that, the visit is pretty nice and Tim’s dad is really becoming attached and smitten with Mason.
Then…guess what happens? Tim and Vivian hook up. Because Tim never learns.
Christmas break comes and Tim goes home to Haysburg for the break. Tim’s dad has started dating a lady named Margaret, who is the college librarian who replaced his dead wife. Weird, but Margaret seems like a nice lady. Margaret and Tim’s dad have redone the dead wife’s sewing room as a nursery for Mason.
Tim runs into Cheryl who is working at the local drugstore. She wants to come see Mason and she is going to bring her fiance, the 33 year old pharmacist. Small town stereotype. So they come for a visit, and the fiance is a dick to Tim who threatens to take Tim to court to get Mason back, just to get back at him for what he did to Cheryl the previous year. But then they back off and say they won’t do it. Strange, but it did scare the crapola out of Tim, who at that moment realizes just how much he loves Mason. Aww….
We end with Dad asking Tim to leave Mason with him, saying he can keep Mason while Tim is at school and they will go it together during the breaks. Tim considers it but says no. Mason is his son and he wants to do it himself. The Vivian calls and she is going to come to Haysburg to visit Tim in a few days…..and that’s where the book ends.
- Tim’s dad claims to be a Socialist, but he is a total snob when he finds out that Tim knocked up the garbage collector’s daughter. Cause them’s some good socialist ideals.
- Tim’s dad is named Abner. For some reason an old guy named Abner is just adorable to me.
- You know what’s weird, is that it’s never exactly explained why Tim wants to raise Mason on his own….but is that even a little sexist of me to expect an explanation? If a teenage girl decided to go it alone and rejected adoption, I wouldn’t expect an explanation.
- What I liked about this book is that it’s very fair to the small town vs. big city ideal. Many books make small town folks seem like hillbillies and big city people impossibly sophisticated (you know, like Stacey McGill) or else they portray small town people as the only people in America who have good values (i.e. Sarah Palin’s entire acceptance speech) while city people are all materialistic and have divorces and bad remarriages, etc. Of course neither of these scenarios is correct. The truth is that there are good and bad things of small towns and big cities and I think this book portrays that nicely.
- I feel so bad for the potential adoptive parents, the Sidels. They really wanted this kid and I’m glad Tim did feel bad about what was happening to them. But really, Cheryl was just going to sell the kid without even telling the father?
- When Tim picked Mason up from the hospital, he took him home without a carseat. um….yeah. This book was published in 1988, and I’m like 99% sure that there were carseat laws at that point.
- Tim was taken aback by his father’s assessment that the first year of a child’s life is “a nightmare.” Yep. It is, Tim. OK, maybe not the whole first year, but the first few months are terrible terrible TERRIBLE. I had twelve weeks of maternity leave and without a doubt those were the hardest, lonliest, most emotional, most tiring twelve weeks of my life. Tim’s just lucky he wasn’t hormonal at the same time! But then it’s pretty much described accurately. Tim points out Mason’s “monstrous egotism.”
- Tim is an idiot. He has sex with Vivian without using a condom. Then when she brings it up, he says he “assumed” she’s on the pill. Oh god, Tim you are an idiot. For a kid who got into Columbia full scholarship, he sure doesn’t know any better than to think with his pecker. Like he doesn’t have a great big lesson named Mason to remind him. Every day.
*Edit/update: I just found a picture of the book cover. This is the edition that I owned and read as a teenager. The edition I just got from the library had a really bizarre cover. But notice Tim’s popped collar. Sa-weet.