Sammie and Monika are trying to raise their son, but Sammie is reaching breaking point.
Author of this unique novel, Kristen Arnett, is an American fiction writer and essayist. Her previous book, Mostly Dead Things, was a New York Times bestseller.
Sammie had an odd and unloving childhood, but after coming out as lesbian and marrying Monika, everything was better, perfect even.
But then Samson was born.
The arrival of her son, the child she had birthed herself, made things much, much worse.
Sammie is a stay-at-home mother with almost no help, as her wife is always away for work and only ever bothers to check up on Sammie when she asks what’s for dinner.
Samson rarely speaks, and when he does it never makes much sense. He is constantly freaking Sammie out, and Monika never really shows that she cares.
With Teeth follows Sammie on her scary, troubling journey through motherhood, and shows that even when things seem perfect, not everything is as idyllic as once hoped.
So, what did I think?
The first few pages of With Teeth left me feeling unnerved in the best way; Arnett set the stage well for what was to come. However, while the start of the book was brilliant, the rest of the novel (which was still intereting and unique) didn't quite keep up those first few pages.
With Teeth was a story I did not expect: a woman who hates her own son and, to be fair to Sammie, I hated Samson too.
Her and her wife Monika have grown apart since their son was born, and Sammie is always left at home to pick up after her the gremlin she calls her son. She drives him to and from places, washes his clothes and cooks him dinner, but never gets appreciation or any thanks.
I loved Sammie’s character; I adored her dry humour at times when she felt rather low, and her ability to power through life was rather motivating.
However, despite the story being unique and something that really impressed me, it didn’t seem to have a destination.
With Teeth simply told the story of Sammie, Monika and their unruly son Samson, but there was no end goal, and for a book with such excellent promise, the ending was a little disappointing, as I felt there was no closure.
The book moved forward in time of course, but not much seemed to come of it. I expected a revelation for Samson, or for Sammie to break free of the cycle of sadness she felt, but none of that occurred.
Despite the book riding a flat rail in terms of narrative, everything else about it was fantastic.
The themes of lesbians not being understood and finding family life difficult were sometimes hard to swallow in a good way, and were rock solid in the narrative. Arnett really has created the perfect main character, as whether the reader is of the LGBTQ+ community or not, Sammie is so relatable and her struggles (if not a little exaggerated for the story’s sake) can resonate with other parents.
In spite of the book having no noticeable ending to head for, I still really enjoyed With Teeth, as I could tell Arnett poured her heart and soul into the novel, which makes it a unique tale.
Showing that families aren’t perfect through the eyes of two lesbian mothers raising a son is genius; the theme of an imperfect family is more often than not shown through a nuclear family with a mother and father.
Using a couple like Sammie and Monika normalises them in such a fundamental way, and shows that the only struggle they go through isn’t the disapproving nature of friends and family.
That was the saving grace of this novel; not everything works out and things may become melancholic and difficult, and other than the stress of adopting or being different, lesbians (and other LGBTQ+ members) have the same struggles as everyone else when it comes to kids and romance.
This was a story of heartbreak, adversity and slight fear, and Arnett has crafted such significant characters to show that while things can work out, not everything does.
With Teeth is out now!
Written by Melissa, who you can follow on Twitter @melissajournal
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