Things We Need by Jennifer Close

Although I love any excuse to appreciate Matthew McConaughey’s fine acting skills, I particularly enjoyed the movie Failure to Launch – the story of a thirty-something-year-old guy who won’t leave his parents’ home. I have four kids – I will be horrified if they are all still living with me in twenty years time. My insurance policy for this situation is bunk beds (I don’t imagine they’ll be so excited by bunks when they’re twenty).

There’s a reason for my Failure to Launch intro…

Things We Need by Jennifer Close is the story of the Coffey family. Parents Weezy and Will should be enjoying their ’empty nest’ but instead twenty-something- year-old sisters Martha and Claire are living at home and son Max, in his final year at college, moves back home with girlfriend in tow.

I imagine it’s quite difficult to write a second book. Certainly more difficult than the first given that expectations and criticisms can weigh heavily on an author. Things We Need (published in the US as The Smart One) is Close’s second book and what it lacks in sharp wit, it makes up for in plot (the reverse could be said of Close’s debut, Girls in White Dresses).

The characters are well developed, particularly Martha and Claire, although I only saw glimpses of the dry humour that I enjoyed so much in Close’s debut.  Of Martha and her job at J. Crew she writes –

“As the session was ending, Martha had stood up and looked straight at Dr. Baer, to make one more attempt to get her to understand…. “I can’t fold another pair of pants with whales on them,’ she’d said. “I’ll die if I do.”

The story promised a nitty-gritty look at a family situation but ultimately I felt there were too many plot lines for it to pack a real punch. It’s a shame so much of the story was invested in Weezy because in Martha and Claire, Close seems to be on familiar (and I think successful) ground –

“She gave him a plaid scarf that she’d bought at the last minute, during a moment of doubt when she couldn’t justify sleeping with someone for three months and not giving him a Christmas present. He seemed to like it.”


“Claire found a couple mix tapes with titles like Claire’s Driving Songs and Spring Fling Mix. She wondered briefly what high school kids did these days instead of making mix tapes for each other. Did they trade playlists on their iPods? That seemed boring and sad. They’d have nothing to show for their years in high school.”

I agree.

2/5 I wanted to laugh-out-loud a la Girls in White Dresses… But didn’t quite get there.

I received my copy of Things We Need from the publisher, Random House UK via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.

There are dozens of dishes mentioned in Things We Need which made me think ‘That’s something I need…’ numerous times whilst reading. My favourite? Mini beef tenderloin sliders with horseradish cream. Find the recipe at In the Kitchen with Little Buddy.


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