Where Everybody Knows Your Name

The cover of The Sweet Spot is an  illustration showing legs of a woman seated on the steps of a brownstone with a baby in a carrier at her side and glass of wine in front her her.

Amy Mitchell Poeppel ’88

The Sweet Spot
Emily Bestler Books/Atria
394 pages, $17.99

What do you find when you cross one calculating entrepreneur, an overworked ceramist, a vengeful ex-wife, and an enterprising young woman in New York City? That would be The Sweet Spot—the eponymous bar where many paths cross in this sweet and funny look at the village it takes not only to raise a child, but also to navigate the pitfalls of success and failure.

To break down the circumstances of this novel is to give away some of its delightful twists and complicated coincidences, but it starts with ceramic artist Lauren, who has recently moved into the home above the bar with her husband, three kids, and new dog. She’s also just received a significant commission for her eclectic pieces from TV celebrity/designer Felicity, and their meeting and conversation sets off a chain of events that are at times hilarious, heartwarming, and heart-wrenching.

The size of the job means Lauren needs some help around the house, which brings her mother, Evelyn, down to the city from her home in Wellesley, Mass. She’s only there temporarily, so they decide they need more help—which arrives in the form of Olivia, the daughter of the bar owner, who recently lost her job at Felicity’s store … because of Melinda and an incriminating social media post. Melinda is the ex-wife of Russell, who left her to be with Felicity, who just gave birth to their son, Horatio. And all that’s before Felicity leaves town to work on a new show set in California, and Russell takes off after her—leaving the baby with Melinda.

Confused yet? The connections among the many rich characters in this delightful and occasionally zany novel may seem daunting, but Amy Mitchell Poeppel ’88 manages the intertwined storylines with a deft hand. No character becomes a caricature. The vengeful ex-wife is revealed to be a hurt and hurting woman, who eventually becomes a valued friend and part of the ever-expanding found family surrounding the Sweet Spot; the cold and calculating Felicity connects with her son after her time away; and Evelyn, who starts off as a distant and disapproving mother figure, grows closer to her family and gets her own distinct story.

The Sweet Spot manages to hit its own sweet spot between poking fun at the foibles of the world and its characters and making the reader empathize and even fall in love with those same characters as they fumble through romancing, creating a family, and finding the work that fulfills them. Following along as they grow more and more entangled—and wonderfully connected—is a delight. Life in this New York City brownstone may be messy and complicated, but it’s certainly sweet.

Garrett is a writer and editor living in the Boston area.

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