58. Substitute Me

a novel
by Lori Tharps

A young, White, professional mother and wife, Kate, places an ad for a nanny for her baby when she must return to work from an extended maternity leave. She is looking for a “substitute me”, someone who will care for her child as well as she does.  She hires Zora, a 30 year old African-American women who is still trying to decide what to do with her life, much to her successful family’s dismay. Even though Kate’s husband, Craig, isn’t too keen on the idea of having a Black nanny, it turns out to be a great match as Zora takes on more duties like cooking (she is professionally trained) and housekeeping.

Everything goes pretty smoothly, but Kate’s demanding job requires that Zora spends more and more time at the couples’ home and it becomes tricky when certain secrets come to light.

I liked the Zora character a lot. Her lack of direction and inability to focus on a career really resonated with me as I sometimes feel the same way. Even though being a nanny was not her long-term goal, she put every effort in to do the best job she could and I admire that sort of work ethic.

The dialogue at times was written really dry. It made it hard to stay excited about reading the book because it felt like something was missing. Still can’t quite put my finger on it.  Also, I wasn’t very happy with the ending, it felt like it wrapped up really quickly. This wasn’t a great book, though it wasn’t a bad book. It was kind of okay.

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