Cover image for The fallback plan
The fallback plan
Stein, Leigh, 1984-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Brooklyn, N.Y. : Melville House, [2012]

Physical Description:
219 pages ; 19 cm
What to do when you've just graduated from college and your plans conflict with those of your parents? That is, when your plans to hang out on the couch, re-read your favorite children's books, and take old prescription tranquilizers, conflict with your parents plans that you, well, get a job? Without a fallback plan, Eshter Kohler decides she has no choice but to take the job her mother has lined up for her: babysitting for their neighbors, the Browns. It's a tricky job, though. Six months earlier, the Browns' youngest child died. Still, as Esther finds herself falling in love with their surviving daughter May, and distracted by a confusing romance with one of her friends, she doesn't notice quite how tricky the job is ... until she finds herself assuming the role of confidante to May's mother Amy, and partner in crime to Amy's husband Nate. Trapped in conflicting roles doomed to collide, Esther is forced to come up with a better idea of who she really is.
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Just graduated from university, Esther's post-graduate plans include: returning to her parents' house, hanging out with Jack (her unrequited school crush) and re-reading her favourite children's books. Her parents have other ideas and volunteer her to be a nanny for their neighbours, the Browns. It's a tricky assignment: six months earlier, their youngest child had died. But Esther finds herself falling in love with the surviving daughter May and soon becomes entangled in family politics, forcing her to finally address who she really is...

Author Notes

"This is Leigh Stein 's first novel, although at 26 she is already an accomplished writer. A former New Yorker staffer and frequent contributor to its Book Bench blog, her poetry has been published in numerous journals, been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and earned her Poets & Writers Magazine 's Amy Award . She lives in Brooklyn, where she works in children's publishing and teaches musical theater to elementary school students."

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

After Esther graduates from Northwestern University, she finds herself jobless, directionless, and moving back in with her parents. When her mother finds her a job caring for the four-year-old daughter of a neighboring family, she grudgingly agrees. But the family lost an infant child earlier in the year, and Esther, struggling with her own depression, finds herself caring for both the girl and the grieving mother. As she also navigates through romantic relationships with the girl's father and a friend her own age, we witness her inner conflict and personal growth. Although too referential to be as timeless, this well-developed coming-of-age story is in line with Judy Blume's Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret (1970) and Forever (1975). Esther's struggle with clinical depression might alienate some readers, but like Blume's characters, she is authentic and likable. Written with witty humor and in informal, contemporary language, Stein's debut novel will resonate with a new generation of students for whom college is no longer the final step on the road to adulthood.--Ophoff, Cortney Copyright 2010 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

Stein, 26, captures the voice of the young 20-something prodigal daughter with the clarion call of authenticity in her debut novel. Esther Kohler is a burned-out recent college grad who has returned to the claustrophobic embrace of her suburban family home following a depressive episode in her final semester at Northwestern University. An aspiring actress and screenwriter (Esther's inchoate screenplay features characters and tropes borrowed from her favorite childhood books), she spends her days taking prescription pills and tagging along on the misadventures of her childhood friend, Pickle, and his "devastatingly attractive" but unstable buddy, Jack. Esther's poor decision-making skills have an amusing universality, and Stein's dry humor lends a nicely angst-free tone to her misadventures. In acquiescence to her parents, she accepts a babysitting job for a family who recently lost a child. Esther finds her own life becoming inextricably linked with a family with "real problems," forcing her to take that last step away from adolescence and to embrace the future. Stein's light, accessible, self-deprecating prose makes this coming-of-age story a pleasure. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Library Journal Review

A new genre has emerged in current popular culture of slacker stories about twenty-somethings-mostly young men-who lack any ambition beyond channel surfing, playing video games, and staying stoned. Stein's debut joins this trend with the story of Esther Kohler, a recent college graduate with no job prospects and no fallback plan beyond moving into her parents' guest room. After weeks of hanging out with friends who are even more lost than she is, Esther is pushed into accepting a babysitting job. Spending time with a four-year-old is within her skill range, but she's out of her depth with the parents, who are grieving the loss of a baby. VERDICT Esther's initial lethargy is so complete readers may wonder why they should bother to keep turning the pages. If they do, they will be rewarded with a graceful twist of redemption. The mix of self-absorption, depression, and grief does not always sit well together, but Stein makes the final chapters work.-Jan Blodgett, Davidson, NC (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.