Baby on Loan
Kevin and Faye are short on sleep because their six-month-old son, Bertie, is teething. They are also worried about Kevin’s sister, Jessie. She is about to sign a lease at an apartment complex that has draconian rules: no children, no pets, no noise. Kevin and Faye are upset about this. Jessie will never find a man there! They soon formulate an ingenious solution to both their problems. They – I am not making this up – abandon their baby on Jessie’s doorstep. This way they get a vacation from the trials of parenthood, and they’ve ensured that Jessie’s days at her apartment building are numbered. Perfect! Who better to take care of their beloved Bertie than someone who’s been evicted?
The plan works like clockwork. Jessie promptly gets kicked out of her home and, in desperation, she secures a short-term lease on a very nice, furnished house. She pays cash, not realizing that the person she’s dealing with is just the teenaged housesitter, who takes Jessie’s money and goes on vacation. The place actually belongs to a lawyer named Patrick, who arrives home the very night Jessie moves in. She thinks he’s a criminal; he has no idea why there’s a crazy woman in his house. Antics ensue, during which Jessie takes the time to note that the terrifying burglar is really cute.
Now, I do understand that I am intended to find all this hilarious rather than infuriating. I suppose, dubiously, that it might be possible to construct a giggle-worthy comedy about parents dumping their child on an unwilling family member (it was just for a week or so! And they needed sleep! Ha ha!). But the way Kevin and Faye simultaneously scheme to have Jessie evicted from her home made my blood boil. There’s an unintentionally funny scene in the middle of the book showing Faye and Kevin agonizing about whether or not to return and claim their baby. “They wouldn’t just pitch her out on the street, would they? Not just like that?” They decide to wait a little longer, just to make sure.
The unspoken assumption is that any machinations, however outrageous, are perfectly justified if they help Jessie find a good husband and settle down. Jessie herself accepts this, which is why she isn’t angry with Kevin and Faye. She’s angry with Patrick for coming home and wanting his house back. She refuses to leave, and manipulates him by letting him believe that she’s a single mother with nowhere else to turn. Her deception leads to a misunderstanding of humongous proportions.
< Throughout the book Patrick and Jessie, instead of acting like grownups and attempting to come to a mutually agreeable solution, engage in tantrums and passive-aggressive games. For instance, Jessie turns off the water heater so that Patrick won't have any hot water for a shower when he gets home from work. In this manner, the fine line between funny and annoying is crossed at every opportunity.
Then comes the epilogue. I can’t give you the details, but I thought it took the book’s pervasive bad taste, whipped it into a creamy dessert, and served it with a poisonous cherry on top. This book didn’t make me smile; it made me go “Ugh.”
As I often say when giving a bad grade to a comedy, humor is subjective. That it didn’t garner an F rather than a D- is that, oddly enough, it wasn’t “worthy” of an F. I thought Baby on Loan was horrid, its characters abusively manipulative and its underlying assumptions offensive, but in the end, the book simply wasn’t important enough to earn an F.