Last year I was pleasantly surprised by Kraus and McLaughlin’s wildly popular The Nanny Diaries, which was both funnier and more poignant than I expected it to be. Nanny Returns is their sequel, picking up the story of Nanny and the horrible X family twelve years later. Nanny is now married, mired in renovating a house and starting a business, when the now-teenage Grayer X, her former charge, bursts into her life again.
The X family is as dysfunctional as ever, and the satire of upper class New York families who have children as status symbols but have no intention of ever caring for them, is as sharp as ever. An additional layer is added here as Nan finds work as a human-resources consultant at an upscale private school and uncovers even more levels of crazy rich-family horror.
This novel is entertaining and engaging, but I found it didn’t work as well for me as The Nanny Diaries simply because its focus is not as clear. The was really only one story in Diaries: Nan’s horrible job working as a nanny for the X family — with a little love story thrown in on the side. Nanny Returns has a lot of storylines going on at once. There’s the private school plot, there’s Nan’s growing involvement in the lives of Grayer and his little brother Stilton, there’s the disastrous home reno story, and there’s Nan’s own ambivalence about having children and how that affects her marriage as well as her friendships with other women her age who are launching into parenthood. Nan continues to be an entertaining narrator and the examination of social class is as sharp as ever, but I thought the book suffered a little from having too many plot threads dangling all at once.