Baby Come Back
by Maeve Haran, contemporary (2001)
Warner, 5.99, ISBN 0-7515-2968-0


Poor Baby Come Back. It doesn't know whether to be cynical or romantic. It doesn't know whether to keep having the Loud, Evil Bitch tar our Demure, Dim Ingenue with toilet bowl leftovers or to reaffirm love the way Chick-Lit authors do it best: love is sweet, perfect, and it robs away all your intelligence. Hence it goes all wishy-washy, leaving me with no one to root for. What a cop-out.

Anyone remembers Dolly Parton's old song Jolene? The one where this probably plain but certainly dimwitted woman begs Jolene not to steal her man because there is no way a dull, ugly desperate woman like her will ever get a man again as easily as Jolene steals hers? (I know, the sentence is confusing, but hey, take your time.) This story is such a case. Molly Meredith loves her husband Joe. When Joe gets melancholic about not knowing his biological mother after Molly gave birth to their baby, Molly does some snooping and voila! It turns out that Joe's mother is the brassy, has-been but will-never-go-down-easy movie star Stella Milton. Oh no, now Stella is taking Joe away from Molly, Molly's mother-in-law (Joe's adoptive mother) now wants to make Molly's life hell out of jealousy, and Molly... Molly... she just takes it all down and holds back tears. Please, Stella, don't take her man away, because she loves him! Please, please, pleeeeeaaasssseee...

Pathetic. And Joe isn't such a catch either. Pampered to death by wifey, he nonetheless ups and abandons her for mommy and a movie career without much second thoughts. And Molly is beating herself black and blue over this jerk? Well, the least I can say is, they do deserve each other.

I confess I take great unhealthy delight in reading how Stella rubs Molly's face in the dirt. Nothing like a gleeful, self-confessed bitch to do the conga in her high heels all over silent, long-suffering Molly's body. But alas, towards the end, Ms Haran remembers that romance - twisted, stupid, Cosmo-style - is supposed to triumph. So she rushes towards an implausible and ridiculous closure that has Molly so grateful that Stella gives her back her husband. Like I said, pathetic.

I can't help feeling that Ms Haran believes that readers emphatize with doormats. Or that love is supposed to make women doormats, fools, and all. At the same time, she passes off such self-abusive behavior as something right and perfect... well, I can't help feeling sad, really. Being so cynical without realizing it, or worse, mistaking cynicism as romanticism... that's not the way to live, surely. Here, have some Ribena.

Rating: 66


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