Nia Vardalos is known for writing and starring in the monster 2002 indie hit My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Since then, Vardalos has made periodic returns to film, but her public profile has been considerably mute since the success of her breakout box office smash. During that time, she and her husband, actor Ian Gomez (Cougar Town), were trying to start a family. After several failed attempts at conceiving, Vardalos and Gomez decided to adopt. Instant Mom is a chronicle of the couple’s oft-painful journey to parenthood. Those familiar with My Big Fat Greek Wedding, will be pleasantly satisfied that the film’s easy-going, charming humor is present in this book as well. And though there are some more poignant moments – after all, the subject matter, does lend itself to some more serious passages – Instant Mom is a sentimental, funny, and heart-warming tale of how a woman became a mother after years of pining and trying.
As with her most famous film, Vardalos’ take on the world is a funny, lovely place with a large group of helpful and loving people. Aside from her devoted husband, the actress-comedienne also has a network of committed friends, each of whom were wishing for Vardalos’ dream of motherhood to come true. And she does some nifty name-dropping – Tom Hanks and wife Rita Wilson, as well as Kathy Najimy and Sean Hayes all appear throughout the novel, acting as extended family members. But don’t be turned off by the starry mentions; the famous names aren’t just reminders to the readers that Vardalos is a celebrity – they are actually close friends, who offer love and support.
But don’t think that Vardalos’ tale is free of angst and worry. Once she is matched with a little girl, her home life is plunged into chaos, stress, and disorder, as her little daughter must acclimate to her new home and realize that she’s become a member of a permanent family. There are screaming fits, punctuated by minor acts of violence (including the clichéd ankle-biting), and sporadic visits from sympathetic social workers. While largely sentimental, Vardalos doesn’t idealize or sugarcoat anything – instead she tells the stories with her patented sunny sense of humor. She’s a sunny optimist and doesn’t allow disappointment to cloud her positive outlook on life.
Aside from being a rookie mommy, Vardalos briefly catches her readers up on what happened since 2002 when her self-penned film debut grossed over $300 million at the box office. She popped up in a few indie films – including Connie and Carla and My Life in Ruins – of which she chalked up their obscurity to the fact that the film studios didn’t support them. According to her memoir, she also purposefully stepped back from celebrity to devote her time to motherhood. She doesn’t express any regret or disappointment at having to turn down film opportunities; instead, she largely finds her time at home to be more fulfilling.
Instant Mom has a slight feeling of a dramedy or hour-long sitcom, and Vardalos would be wise to explore that option – after all, there are lots of stories to share about being a new mom, and if anyone could make them joyfully funny, it would be Vardalos.