In Lori Tharps’ new novel Substitute Me, Zora Anderson, an African American and college dropout, is having trouble; she is caught in between her overly ambitious parents and her relaxed lifestyle. She fears that her life choices do not comply with her parents’ dream for her. With no life plan, Zora runs as fast as she can away from her ambitious and driven family towards a more relaxed lifestyle. She answers an ad and becomes a nanny for a wealthy Park Slope family.
Quickly Zora transforms her lifestyle to conform to this families every whim and desire. This WASP-y Carter family has a small child, Ollie, who quickly bonds with Zora. Zora has dreams of becoming a personal chef yet her restrictive parents don’t want her to become a common day slave when they have worked hard to provide her with many more opportunities.
Brad and Kate Carter are very driven people; both are trying to search for something new and different in order to transform their lives from the mundane to a new unique lifestyle. Kate follows a different path as a working mother she falls full force back into her work and take on every new opportunity while relinquishing more and more control to her nanny. Zora becomes a dominant figure in the Carter household in many ways replacing the overbearing mother.
Each character –besides Ollie- is trying to reinvent themselves and hopes to pursue many other things in place of their mundane lives. We follow each character down a track of innovation and experience searching for their true identity. Zora is searching for more in life besides working as a nanny, something that inspires her and she emerges as a powerful character. Brad is looking for more in life then to follow down his predestined life as a WASP. Kate aspires to business perfection as well as family perfection. While the story focuses on Zora’s on life it truly give the reader insights to a world much different from their own.
Lori Tharps brings the reader on a rollercoaster ride through this family’s life and the changes and turmoil that surrounds them. Tharps’ writing is creative and thought provoking, begging the reader to engage with the literature that surrounds them. Her voice is powerful and beyond comparison to others as she approaches this topic with a new unique voice that not only intrigues the reader but a group as a whole. The character Tharps describes is realistic and unforgettable. She is able to attack tensions that have plagued society; she leaves the author questioning everything and their own decisions. Is everything attainable? Find out in Lori Tharps’ new novel Substitute Me.
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