* The Secrets of Happy Families by Bruce Feiler


With my last child almost off to college, it’s about time for me to find out about The Secrets of Happy Families: Improve Your Mornings, Tell Your Family History, Fight Smarter, Go Out and Play, and Much More. Well, it turns out I did not miss much.

The book is organized in chapters that each focus on a particular technique, adapted from the business world and applied to family life. For instance, we get the dreaded, “Create a family mission statement”. If you have not had your fill of insipid truths, utterly disconnected from the reality of day-to-day experience, and enshrined in those obnoxious posters forlornly tacked in company kitchens, read on. Every once in a while there’s a cogent principle, but it’s a little too obvious to be worth reading about. So we are told that family dinner, that symbol of functional family, is really quite unimportant: what matters is what happens at dinner, namely the exchange of stories. Tell me something I did not know.

Some chapters are truly hilarious, or so I thought. For instance, trying to extract tips for family reunions from, of all organizations, the Marine Corps, kept me chuckling to myself for many pages. Not a keeper.

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