Twin switching identities, check, arson, check, victims entombed in concrete, check, gold digger girlfriend, check, concussion victim who wakes up at the very perfect moment, check. Too many cliches and coincidences make Daddy’s Gone A Hunting wholly unbelievable and left me shaking her head and never able to fully enter the story, despite the usual skilled suspense the author creates. Skip this one.
Tag Archives: families
I was enthralled by The Woman in White, a 19th century novel that reads like a mystery novel and features a forced wedding, a dastardly aristocrat, an illegitimate birth, a kidnapping and internment in a psychiatric asylum, the torching of a church, and twists and turns until the very end. I just loved it, all 700+ pages of it, for its non-stop action, its clever use multiple narrators, and its very modern picture of a strong woman character (alongside a conventional, overwhelmed, powerless woman, whom she rescues).
Pick it up for your summer reading. It’s a gem that deserves recognition (and there’s a free version for Kindle users!) I am planning to read Collins’s other books and I am puzzled by why he is not better known.
The Imposter Bride starts in the aftermath of World War II when a young woman arrives in Montreal to marry a man she has never met, ends up marrying his brother instead, and has the bad luck to encounter a relative of the woman whose identity she assumed. Told from the perspective of her daughter, whom she abandons shortly after her birth, the story retraces the mother’s shadowy escape from the Nazis alongside the daughter’s own life. I did not care much for the focus on the diamond the mother brought with her, nor for the family history of the relative who unmasks the mystery, but the complicated relationships between the mother, her husband, and her mother in law are finely captured.
The Burgess Boys is the story of three siblings, two of them men, and their hapless nephew (the sister’s son), who dumbly but without malice throws a pig’s head into a mosque and unleashes turmoil in the Maine town where he lives and where the siblings grew up, and the threat of grave punishment. The two brothers, both lawyers, one successful and the other much less so, come to his aid and it goes downhill from there. Finely observed characters (most spectacularly so the successful brother’s wife) but the unraveling seems rather far-fetched.
The Force of Things: A Marriage in War and Peace is, at its core, the portrait of a bad marriage. It is also the story of the author’s own family, the bad marriage being that of his parents, with his hoarder father (who has a hoarder sister, which creates an occasion for an epic apartment cleaning session in which, amongst other objects, a bicycle is unearthed beneath a mound of yarn — why do archeologists persist in digging in dirt when they could stay in New York and make discoveries?) and his outgoing mother who seemed happiest when spending time away from his dad, entertaining friends. The dad is also a European Jew who narrowly escaped the Fascists from Italy where he had fled from his native Poland but with an invented Latvian identity (to fool the US immigration quotas) while his mother’s family is more than a little anti-semitic, even if the mother herself was more of a free spirit. It’s sometimes a little hard to believe that all these adventures happened in the same family — but it sure makes for a wonderful story.
Sugar in the Blood: A Family’s Story of Slavery and Empire is not just the story of the author’s family, but an ambitious history of the island of Barbados, complete with plantations, immigrants’ stories, both impoverished migrants from England and slaves from Africa, both of which are represented in the author’s genealogical tree, hurricanes, and the economics of the sugar business that shaped island life. The author does a masterful job of covering a wide range of historical topics in the context of her family and is able to transition gracefully from one to the other. Highly recommended, even if you do not like history!
Ghana Must Go is a cleverly-built novel about a family from Ghana, at least on the father’s side, father whose death brings the children and their mother, long ago abandoned in the US after the father’s professional humiliation, back to Ghana for the funeral. It’s told in a series of flashbacks from each of the children and the mother, sometimes overdone but well observed, whether the author is reflecting on how children adopt stereotypical roles in a large family or how foreigners, too, can be pigeonholed as “natives of a War-Torn Nation” rather than individuals.
A little long in parts and a little confusing in the navigation of the family in others, but with plenty of perfect-toned observations.
All This Talk of Love is a family saga of an Italian-American family with a classic overbearing mother who expects her adult son to call her each and every night, her daughter with her big house, her helicopter parenting style, and her passive-aggressive approach to getting her way, the long-suffering dad who keeps himself responsible for the death of a teenage son. And there are many deaths in the book, not just the one son, which makes for a rather over dramatic and sentimental story, although some of the subthemes are treated deliciously, for instance the poisoned relationship between the son pursing his Ph.D. in English and his exploitative thesis director cum lover.
Still, the larger story is not one that will rock your world — or strain your brain.
Written by a woman who is herself married to a man of another religion, ‘Til Faith Do Us Part: How Interfaith Marriage is Transforming America explores the difficulties of such couples and their families (and yes, mostly the difficulties; there seems to be few advantages enjoyed by interfaith couples). The author interviewed 100 couples but there’s no clear description of how the sample was recruited so the book and the argument work mostly through anecdotes, unfortunately, but the stories flow well and are interesting, whether the author is describing the attitudes of various religious institutions towards the other religious part of the couple (we could all learn from the Mormons, it seems) or the complications of choosing appropriate holidays and celebrations for the children.
The author’s message seems to be that interfaith marriages have many challenges, almost all of which are ignored at the time of the marriage. But people get married at an age when religion seems to hold the least importance in their lives, which would be a partial explanation — and many other differences that become meaningful later seem to be overlooked as well, right?
Hildy Good, she with The Good House, is a realtor who drinks too much but must hide it from her daughters who disapprove (and sent her to rehab) and, as much as possible, from her clients. In her small New England town where everyone knwos everyone, except for the rich newcomers, it is a challenge. She speaks her mind, she invokes the spirit of her witch ancestor, she gets along well with her gay ex-husband, she is jealous of her grandson’s other grandmother, whose sober status means she has more access to him. A solid, fun story without pretensions to greatness.