The story of Famous Baby focuses on Ruth Sternberg, the “First Mother of Mommy Blogging,” and her daughter/blog subject, Abbie. Resentful of her mother’s appropriation of her life for blog material, eighteen-year-old Abbie has kidnapped her dying grandmother to live with her in an effort to prevent Ruth from recording and blogging her death. Ruth is understandably panicked by the disappearance of her mother and daughter, not least of all because without either of them, she is at a loss for subject matter. The plot is further complicated by the appearance of Eric, a sweet, young, aspiring filmmaker whose interest in making a film about Abbie reminds her of her mother a little more than she’d like. She seems to find his interest flattering and off-putting by turns.
The story shifts chapter by chapter between Ruth’s and Abbie’s points of view. Both characters are told from a present-tense, first person point of view, which lends the storytelling consistency, although it becomes a bit hard to track whose point of view is whose once (spoiler alert) mother and daughter are eventually reunited.
In many ways, this is a classic tale of confrontation between mother and daughter, but what sets it apart from most stories of its kind is the way the story embraces technology. There are sections formatted as chat bubbles, blog posts, and emails, used to convey communications between the two. Technology is ever-present in the story and generally well-handled, so the formatting never distracts from the story, and there’s hardly ever a point when the technology references feel heavy-handed or anachronistic.
At times, the characterization is a little thin, as when Abbie repeatedly states that she “never got used to” being the subject of her mother’s blog—as if she ever had any opportunity to know any other way—and she never really reflects on her relationship with her family in any way that meaningfully elaborates her as a character. And Harry, Ruth’s agent and foil for the first half of the book, is downright contradictory, so when he disappears after a tantrum two thirds of the way through the story, it’s no major loss. Otherwise, the characters are consistently rendered, with recognizable motivations that forward the story’s action. And Abbie’s gang of elderly friends who step in to help her take care of her grandmother give the story a touch of offbeat humor.
Famous Baby would make ideal airplane reading. The prose is clear, fast-paced, and funny. The plot resolves tidily in less than 300 pages, while the contemporary subject matter—how a tell-all blog breeds family trouble—relies on a mother-daughter relationship that feels true enough to resonate with mothers and daughters alike.