French, Wendy 1972–
French, Wendy 1972–
Copywriter for a department store chain; associated with an Oregon-based utility company.
sMothering, Forge (New York, NY), 2003.
Going Coastal, Forge (New York, NY), 2005.
After the Rice, Forge (New York, NY), 2005.
Full of It, Forge (New York, NY), 2007.
Canadian novelist Wendy French is the author of women's fiction. Her first novel, sMothering, tells the story of twenty-three-year-old Claire, who is unhappy with her job and life in Portland, Oregon, and what happens when Claire's meddling, overbearing mother shows up for an extended visit. Recently dumped by her boyfriend and suffering career stagnation in a just-at-poverty-wage job with a telemarketing firm, Claire cannot understand why her mother has chosen this moment to whisk into her life and her cramped, dingy apartment. Worse, Claire finds that she has to act as go-between and peacemaker between her happier lesbian sister and her homophobic mother. Soon, however, Mom is interfering in places where she is not wanted. She reveals embarrassing personal details to the bemused receptionist where Claire works. When her boss offers a supervisory position, Claire must weigh the added responsibility and income against the resentment that could result. However, things are not looking all bleak; Adam Carello has just asked her out. Her family life threatens to reach a boiling point, however, when the astonished Claire finds out that her father has had an affair and that her mother had one, too, with an unlikely and unattractive suitor. All-too-human foibles come to light as Claire faces some of the realities of growing up, even if she would rather not think about them. A Kirkus Reviews critic called the book a "smoothly written first outing and, all told, really pretty amusing." French "asks deeper questions about trust and boundaries while deftly offering up all the usual delights" of wit, plot twists, and some less-than-humorous questions about the characters' place in the world, noted Gillian Engberg in Booklist. Entertainment Weekly reviewer Clarissa Cruz commented that the story's "emotions ring true," while a Publishers Weekly reviewer observed that French's "debut is warm, tender, and more substantive than most of its type."
In Going Coastal Jody Rogers has one of the worst days of her life when she quits her job; she arrives home to find her boyfriend and her cousin in an erotic clinch in the shower. She cannot flee back to her parents' home, though, because they have turned her old room into a craft studio. With nowhere else to go, Jody moves in with her best friend, Erin, and proceeds to devolve into a depressed mass of uninspired, unmotivated, talk-show-watching blues. Work prospects are bleak and her current best option for a boyfriend is a bit of an oddball. When Jody reluctantly agrees to be a bridesmaid at her friend Hannah's fourth wedding, a surprising romance with a former classmate begins to develop, raising Jody's spirits and prospects immensely. French makes "bizarre situations seem plausible, and her strong suit lies in the characters," commented Booklist reviewer Aleksandra Kostovski.
After the Rice finds young married couple Megan and Matt Ismore desperate for some alone time together, but they are facing the prospect that their tumultuous home life will not allow it. Crisis follows intrusion as her sister has a breakdown and imposes upon Megan and Matt to care for her infant child, a cranky and insistent baby dubbed the Pink Tyrant. Matt's unkempt, alcoholic Uncle Tony moves unbidden into the Ismores' basement, and Megan's younger nouveau-hippie sister camps out on the living room couch. Conflict between in-laws is exacerbated by scheduling mishaps that pit one group's event against the other's, with Matt and Megan caught in the middle. Then, in a rare moment of counting their blessings, Megan learns she is pregnant, an unexpected and wrenching event since she and Matt had already decided they did not want kids. Unable to accept the prospect of becoming a mother, Megan fights her harried way through her days while dodging unwanted relatives and finding little opportunity to talk with Matt about the couple's options. In her third novel, "French effortlessly takes on a heavy personal dilemma without diminishing the fun," stated a Kirkus Reviews contributor. Kostovski, writing in another Booklist review, commented: "Readers will appreciate the humor and the honesty" that French puts into her story of a young couple's marriage being tested by outside forces.
Similar praise greeted Full of It, in which Lauren Peterson, at age twenty-six, manages to pull herself out of career and relationship doldrums after finding herself the sudden heir to a house willed to her by a never-married aunt. Against the advice of friends and family, Lauren decides to take up residence in the dilapidated house and make it livable again. She faces an array of interesting challenges, including how to fix the house's faulty wiring and the huge new sinkhole in the living room floor without alienating her aunt's nosy friend. At the same time, Lauren encounters a provocative young neighbor and a local artist who sparks her romantic interest. Writing in Booklist, Kostovski praised French's talent for infusing her chick-lit novels with characters who "face bigger problems than a bad shopping habit or a few extra pounds." Though a writer for Publishers Weekly found Full of It "lopsided" and its heroine's humor less than fascinating, the reviewer concluded that, in the end, the novel presents "an agreeable fantasy about twenty-somethings trying to find a meaningful adulthood."
"My goal for each book is two out-loud laughs for the reader," said French in an interview posted on her Web site. "To me, there's nothing better than snickering or snorting over a book."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, September 1, 2003, Gillian Engberg, review of sMothering, p. 54; January 1, 2005, Aleksandra Kostovski, review of Going Coastal, p. 814; March 1, 2006, Aleksandra Kostovski, review of After the Rice, p. 60; June 1, 2007, Aleksandra Kostovski, review of Full of It, p. 36.
Entertainment Weekly, November 14, 2003, Clarissa Cruz, review of sMothering, p. 134; March 24, 2006, "Chick Lit 101: Buddy Language," review of After the Rice, p. 73.
Kirkus Reviews, August 15, 2003, review of sMothering, p. 1034; February 1, 2006, review of After the Rice, p. 100.
Publishers Weekly, September 22, 2003, review of sMothering, p. 80; April 23, 2007, review of Full of It, p. 29.
Absolute Write,http://www.absolutewrite.com/ (September 23, 2006), M.E. Wood, interview with Wendy French.
AllReaders.com,http://www.allreaders.com/ (September 23, 2006), review of sMothering.
Once upon a Romance,http://onceuponaromance.net/ (September 23, 2006), Lori Graham, review of After the Rice.
Wendy French Home Page,http://www.wendy-french.com (May 2, 2008).