The novel “Wildcat” by UNCW graduate Amelia Morris

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Amelia Morris received her master’s degree in creative writing from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington in 2009. Moving to Los Angeles, she became a successful food writer, blogger and author of memoirs on the subject of the 2015 “Bon Appetempt” food.

Seven years and two young children later, Morris’ first novel follows motherhood and relationships in the age of social media.

We meet Leanne Hazelton as she becomes a Crazy Cat Lady, at least temporarily, with 30 rescued cats delivered to her not-so-big house. “Wildcat” tells how she got there.

UNCW graduate Amelia Morris is the author of the new novel "Wild cat."

Leanne, 34, is a food blogger and mother of a 4-month-old who is about to publish her first book. She is also reeling from the loss of her father, who died suddenly almost at the birth of her son Hank.

While juggling a baby, a rocky career, and a pretty happy marriage, Leanne struggles with her best friend, Regina, owner of a high-end housewares chain. While all the kisses and smiles, Regina has recently grown cold towards Leanne and, as Leanne is slowly realizing, has begun subtly sabotaging her life. (She may or may not have convinced a friend at the Los Angeles Times to pan Leanne’s book.)

Leanne gradually realizes that she was Regina’s designated sidekick, much like the simple girl who hangs out with the Homecoming Queen. (Having a literary background, Leanne thinks she played Harriet for Regina’s Emma.) Once she’s made it on her own, Leanne becomes a threat – and Regina must crush her.

Meanwhile, Leanne strikes up an online friendship with famous writer Maxine.

In many ways, “Wildcat” is reminiscent of Cyra McFadden’s California social satire “The Serial,” but there’s a lot more going on here. Morris writes with humor and tenderness about the headaches, damage, anxieties and joys of first-time parenthood.

Although “Wildcat” takes place before the COVID-19 pandemic, the winter 2014 measles outbreak in California darkens the proceedings. Leanne loses book signings and writers’ events to measles, and she fears her baby boy Hank has been exposed. (And guess what? Regina becomes a vocal anti-vaxxer.)

And, being a 21st century novel, “Wildcat” spends much of its time on social media. Whereas 19th century novels would have quoted letters, Morris follows Leanne’s texts and her days after other characters’ Instagram posts.

One might quibble that the ending is incredibly happy, but “Wildcat” is a sharp and tight start, marking Morris as a writer to watch.

BOOK REVIEW

‘WILD CAT’

by Amelia Morris

Flatiron books, $27.99

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