At times, I asked myself if Waldman intended this book as a satire, but--despite some funny moments--the description of the book on her website suggests that she did not ("With wry candor and tender humor, acclaimed novelist Ayelet Waldman has crafted a strikingly beautiful novel for our time"--okay, it's marketing talk, but it's so off-base it's laughable). It is hard to see how some reviewers think Emilia is a self-aware and sympathetic character. If she were self-aware, would she: punish her father for years for leaving her mother and then make a play for her married boss, insisting they were soulmates, or mock the grief of other bereaved parents taking part in a memorial walk while she herself has been rendered nearly paralyzed by her daughter's death. And there are other examples. Certainly, the parent-stepchild relationship can be difficult, but her behavior towards William, who is, after all, only five, ratchets back and forth from trying too hard to not trying at all; it's despicable (his actual mother's behavior is also questionable).
The effect that loss of a child can have on a parent (I've been there) and the challenges of trying to make yourself love a difficult stepchild (I haven't been there) are good themes, but Waldman invests her ideas about those themes in a character so immature and self-centered that I found nothing to take away from this book.