Tag Archives: families

** Goodnight Stranger by Miciah Bay Gault

When the stranger of Goodnight Stranger lands on the island, he seems to know too much about the adult twins he befriends, so much that they wonder whether he could be their long-dead brother (why? no one really explains–and it bothered me). He insinuates himself into their lives, until the sister finally goes to seek the truth. In the process, we learn about their parents and family history. It’s all nicely mysterious and nicely told. Too bad I could never get into the delusion of the lost brother.

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** A Philosophy of Ruin by Nicholas Mancusi

The hero of A Philosophy of Ruin has a dead mother, a father who is deeply in debt, and he discovers that a one-night stand is not only a student of his, but also a drug dealer. From a meek philosophy professor, he turns into a drug runner to solve of his problems at once. It will not end well–and the adventure is mostly fun, if improbable.

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** The Altruists by Andrew Ridker

The Altruists follows a family of academics whose grown-up children seem lost after unexpectedly inheriting a fortune from their mother. The father is lost too, losing his teaching job and about to lose his house, with a tenuous relationship with a much younger woman. They try to figure things out, with the story flashing back  from the present to their parents’ courtship. The most remarkable part of the story may be the youth of his author. I did not think that the characters, with the exception of the mother, who is dead and cannot contribute too much, were particularly appealing.

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** Mostly Dead Things by Kristen Arnett

Mostly Dead Things takes place in a taxidermy shop, but it’s really the story of a complicated family, including a most bizarre love triangle involving the heroine and her brother. The ghoulish workings of the shop are really tame compared to the personal struggles. The story tries to be lively and funny but it’s really quite depressing. I’m not sure I would agree that it’s as funny as critics would like us to believe.

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** The Most Fun We Ever Had by Claire Lombardo

The Sorensons seem to have a perfect marriage in The Most Fun We Ever Had, burdening their four daughters with an unattainble idea of coupledom–but of course the reality is much more complex, if hidden and in many cases buried in the past. The daughters, meanwhile, have various issues with their mates, children, lost children, and the big fat lie that one is attending a law school that, in fact, did not admit her. When a son given up for adoption resurfaces, chaos ensues in a torrent of emotions, fraught conversations, and much drama. There are more birth scenes, hospital scenes, and jail pickups than family members!

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*** Idaho by Emily Ruskovich

Idaho stars the wife of an early-onset Alzheimer patient, who tries to untangle her husband’s past, now that he can no longer remember what happened to his first wife and daughters. The tale is hazy and disconnected, as surely his mind must be by the time the story starts, but also kind and loving, despite what we know from the start must be a very dark story. The magnificent Idaho mountains are an added pleasure to the complex tale.

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** The Beneficiary by Janny Scott

The Beneficiary: Fortune, Misfortune, and the Story of My Father traces the life of the author’s father and grandparents, as they live on a luxurious estate established by a wealthy ancestor, on the abundant money flowing through trusts. It’s true that rich people have the same problem as regular folks–but money provides a wonderful cushion against hardship, be it alcoholism or uninterested parents. The author seems a bit tone death to all that, as she starts the book complaining about the high caterer’s bill from her father’s funeral.

There are some fascinating characters in the book, notably her indomitable grandmother who maintained a formidable wardrobe clearly labeled for parties and horse riding, her main occupations. The organization ion the book, with frequent time-changes, is sometimes difficult to follow as the family frequently reused the same first names.

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