The Objects of Her Affection could fall into the coming-of-age category for it is as much about Sophie growing up and coming to terms with some painful issues from her childhood as it is about the realities of motherhood. More than once, Sophie flashes back to her disruptive childhood, and her feelings about it are so obviously influencing her adult behavior that even someone skimming the novel will make the connection. Once Sophie stops trying to make herself not in the image of her mother, she finally finds closure and is able to take responsibility for her actions.
The Objects of Her Affection does present motherhood in all its fantastic and dirty glory, which ends up being one of the highlights of the novel. There are the constant messiness, temper tantrums, lack of sleep, lack of patience, the juggling of societal expectations and reality, and more. Experienced mothers will laugh at Sophie’s battles with the SUV of strollers, her gratefulness of wearing a heavy sweatshirt over her braless frame when caught at home by unexpected visitors, and the overwhelming stress that comes with taking two children on any excursion, no matter how educational or appropriate. New mothers will take heart that in spite of all of this, no mother would trade in those moments for the kisses and hugs and unconditional love make it all worthwhile. Even Sophie, as misguided as she is sometimes, comes to realize this.
There are some great lessons about marriage within The Objects of Her Affection as well. The depiction of her marriage, especially in the beginning, is one of strength and love. Readers will have some concerns about the power imbalance within it, but the love and trust are there to offset these concerns. Unfortunately, Sophie’s secrecy and her need for control all but doom her marriage. Her inability to redefine her role as parent, mother, wife, and partner crack her very strong relationship and serve as a cautionary tale that marriage may start out as nothing but love, lust, and a general sense of well-being but it requires adjustments and changes. All of Sophie’s actions drive home this point with stark clarity.
As for Sophie’s actions regarding her thievery, one cannot help but feel that the entire situation feels too trite. Other characters mention the severity of her crimes, but it is as if Sophie never truly does understand. She faces the consequences of her actions but still has excuses for them. She apologizes but it seems as if she is apologizing for getting caught and for letting the situation get out of hand rather than for breaking the law. Then, there is the troublesome aspect of the recovery of those stolen items. The whole scenario is too fanciful and unrealistic, which would not necessarily be a bad thing if it were not for the fact that the rest of the story is frank and candid about the messiness of life.
On the whole, The Objects of Her Affection is mediocre at best. There are some very cute and poignant moments surrounding Sophie’s struggles with motherhood. Similarly, her fears and frustrations surrounding the questionable mortgage loan company are chilling when one remembers just how many people fell for the same pitch in real life and the consequences of those non-traditional mortgage loans. Even better, the story ends in ambiguity; just as life very rarely ends in clear-cut resolutions and answers, so does Sophie’s story. Still, the art theft sections are somewhat ridiculous, and her solutions for fixing everything are even more so. While it is not the main plot of the story, her thefts are such a key subplot that it severely weakens the overall story and all but condones a form of vigilante justice. It is a disappointing hiccup in an otherwise lighthearted but serious story about the craziness of motherhood and marriage.