Holly Peterson's The Manny deserves to be the runaway bestseller of the summer. The book has everything you want in a beach read: rich bitchy Manhattanites, fashion tips, intrigue, unrequited passion, a bit of smut, and all the standard conventions of the mommy lit genre. The plot follows a wealthy Upper East Side working mom who falls for her male nanny. Imagine The Nanny Diaries crossed with Bonfire of the Vanities and the 1980s sitcom Who's The Boss, with a few unnecessarily didactic digressions about political blogs, and you've got a pretty good idea what you're in for with the book.
Personally, I couldn't put it down.
But afterward, I became suspicious. Why did I like this guy so much, this manny, who sails through every social situation with aplomb, fixes the nascent psychological problems of the heroine's overprivileged and overscheduled son, provides impeccable professional advice, and has the decidedly un-masculine ability to coordinate playdates?
And I realized: he does everything a real man doesn't.
The manny, Peter Bailey, is far too perfect. He shows up in the morning, does developmentally appropriate guy stuff with our heroine Jamie Whitfield's 13-year-old son Dylan, and then goes home to his bachelor pad in some cool Brooklyn neighborhood. Jamie pays him, so she feels entitled to boss him around, a dynamic notably absent from the rest of her relationships with men. And, because she pays him, he's obligated to spend the hours between 2:00 and bedtime doing active things with Dylan. Most actual dads prefer spending the hours between 2:00 and bedtime lying on the couch in their underwear, watching TV and eating pistachios.
Peter loves dogs and kids; he's charming to all of Jamie's friends and colleagues; he's always available to go with the chauffeur to pick up the kids at school when Jamie needs to work late. No doubt he also remembers birthdays and anniversaries, and remembers to put his socks in the laundry basket when he takes them off.
The book works because every mom can relate to the fantasy of having a sexy guy around who manages to entertain, feed, educate, and amuse the kids without requiring written instructions or causing a trip to the emergency room. If you examine the premise for more than a minute, it becomes clear that The Manny is not just mommy lit, but the most exotic kind of fantasy fiction.
Journalist Meredith Broussard is the editor of two anthologies: The Dictionary of Failed Relationships, a collection of stories by women, and The Encyclopedia of Exes, a collection of stories by men. She blogs periodically at http://www.failedrelationships.com.