Vero and her husband Shane have moved out of the sweet suite above his parents’ garage and found themselves smack in the middle of adulthood―two kids, two cars, two jobs. They are not coping well. In response to their looming domestic breakdown, Vero and Shane get live-in help with their sons―a woman from the Philippines named Ligaya (which means happiness), whom the boys call LiLi. Vero justifies LiLi’s role in their home by insisting that she is part of their family, and she goes to great lengths in order to ease her conscience. But differences persist; Vero grapples with her overextended role as a mother and struggles to keep her marriage passionate, while LiLi silently bears the burden of a secret she left behind at home.
Between offers readers an intriguing, searing portrait of two women from two different cultures. At the same time, it satirizes contemporary love, marriage, and parenthood by exposing the sense of entitlement and superiority at the heart of upper-middle-class North American existence through a ubiquitous presence in it: the foreign nanny. Angie Abdou comically and tragically tackles the issue of international nannies by providing a window on motherhood where it is tangled up with class, career, labour, and desire.
This book. OMG THIS BOOK! I loved it SO HARD. It was beautiful and awkward and messy and real.
Okay, Vero: I don’t think I’ve ever read such an unlikeable yet completely sympathetic character. I mean, I spent most of the book not really liking her but at the same time I felt so goddamn bad for her and wanted to take her out for a tea or buy her some lavender essence oil or something. And I love when I’m conflicted about a character. Purely good or purely bad characters just don’t do it for me.
Ligaya was also a well-written, complicated character who really comes into her own by the end of the book. There’s one scene at the end with Ligaya, Vero and Shane and I was all like, “You go LiLI! You tell them how it is!” It was cool to watch her gain confidence in a very unexpected way.
Seriously, guys, the imperfections of all the characters are described perfectly.
Abdou’s use of language is exquisite and if I were to quote all of my favourite lines this review would be, well, pretty much the whole book. I rarely ever include direct quotes in my reviews, but here are two that took my breath away:
“The smile let Vero feel the earth under her feet.” — page 272
“The silence that follows is palatable, the air heavy with it. Vero imagines scooping it into her mouth, eating it like ice cream.” — page 293
I really can’t recommend this book enough. As with Abdou’s other books, Between will take its place on my favourite reads bookcase.