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No two ways about it: when we hear about Renata, our first impression is: this woman is horrible.
She's a hyper-productive working mom with symmetrical hair and a penchant for telling people how gifted and talented her child is, and just how hard-working and important she is.
This is how Madeline describes her to Jane and Celeste:
Her children are geniuses too […] She’s a career woman. She has a full-time nanny. I think she just imported a new one from France. She likes European stuff. Renata doesn’t have time to help at the school. She has board meetings to attend. Whenever you talk to her she’s just been to a board meeting, or she’s on her way back from a board meeting, or she’s preparing for a board meeting […] My point is she can’t go more than five minutes before she mentions a board meeting […] (5.29)
And Madeline hits the nail right on the head. When we first see Renata in action, she goes on and on about her child's unique French name. She thinks Jane is a nanny and starts being incredibly condescending.
Then, of course, all hell breaks loose. Amabella (what a unique French name, huh?) is choked by a kiddo identified as Ziggy. This makes Renata rightfully furious, but she takes it to the extreme: she decides to blacklist Ziggy from Amabella's birthday party. When it turns out that Amabella is being bullied further, Renata decides to start a petition calling for Ziggy to be kicked out of kindergarten.
Renata is a mother bear, and Amabella is her cub. She is furious…and a total jerk.
We start to feel bad for her when we realize that the French nanny she's so proud of is sleeping with her husband…and that the whole town is talking about it. Even though Renata spends a good chunk of the novel stoking the town rumor mill, it's unfair that people are so titillated by her marriage falling apart.
And our opinion of Renata really shifts after Perry is killed. First, quick-thinking legal eagle Renata claims she didn't see Perry's death, proving that she's willing to put herself on the line in order to save Bonnie from going to jail for manslaughter.
"I didn't see what happened. I didn't see him fall." (77. 9)
Though Bonnie ultimately confesses, this line shows how smart and compassionate Renata is. That compassion is in further evidence when she writes an apology note to Ziggy and Jane once it's established that Ziggy wasn't Amabella's abuser.
I don't know if you remember this, but last year at kindergarten orientation day I was not very nice to you. I believed that you had hurt my daughter and I now know that this was not true. (81.5)
When the book comes to its conclusion, Renata has left her unfaithful hubby and relocated with Amabella to England. We have to say: that seems like a super-good move for a slightly snobby, uptight Francophile to make. She can send Amabella to Oxford, and they can take the Chunnel to Paris for private French lessons, mais non?