Don’t Make Me Pull Over!: An Informal History of the Family Road Trip is a pleasant romp through the golden age of family road trips in American, from the time families were able to afford cars through the advent of cheap airline tickets. Along the way, the author points out the creation of family-friendly hotels and restaurants, the possibilities afforded by the intersection of cavernous cars, no seat belts, and annoying siblings — as well as the tyranny of the driver, often only one, dad. It’s all good family fun, of course.
Tag Archives: families
My Brother Moochie: Regaining Dignity in the Midst of Crime, Poverty, and Racism in the American South is a messy book, perhaps proving that, much like physicians should not treat family members, journalists should not write about their families. But the story is stunning, even if the exposition is convoluted.
The author’s brother went to prison for a senseless act of murder, and several other family members did time as well, whereas he did well for himself. Many reviews of the book present it as a story of racism, which it is, but it’s much deeper than that. The most interesting character in it may be the mother (of the author and the disgraced brother), who cares for all her many children (and many non-children to boot), regardless of their position in the world. I feel for her most.
Much of Elephants Can Remember is forgettable, and what’s not forgettable is so outlandish (featuring that old, tired device of twins, coupled with various lovers and mistaken identities) as to make the story a pastiche of mysteries. But there is one redeeming character, that of the mystery writer who, together with Hercule Poirot, untangles the mysteries of the family in which the murder-suicide happened, years ago. She hates going to literary lunches. She has lots of godchildren. And she may well be Ms. Christie herself. That said, the rest of the book is way too unlikely to be satisfying.
The Family Tabor gathers in Palm Springs on the occasion of the grandfather’s being presented with a major award. His three adult children are there, all apparently socially and professionally successful but each with a secret despair (rather amusing since the grandmother is a psychologist). But in fact the most pressing issue is a secret that the grandfather has carried most of his adult life, since he moved them all to California.
The story is a little too pat and contrived for my taste, but I loved how the author captured the relationships between the grown children, cagey and open at the same time, and how they all reverted to some of their younger selves the minutes they walked into their parents’ door.
The Garden Party is a rehearsal dinner between two families that seem to have little in common beyond the soon-to-be bride and groom, and who deploy remarkably little effort to understand each other, or even to have a pleasant conversation without immediately judging the other party as utterly irrelevant. The author does assemble a couple dozen guests, all with complicated problems, but they interact so little (or, when they do, so inappropriately) that they mostly generate monologues that intersect but do not connect.
Meanwhile, the bride and groom are trying to get married in advance of their big day. I have a piece of advice for them: elope!
The author of In the Days of Rain: A Daughter, a Father, a Cult grew up in an evangelical cult that kept its members separate from the world, which they saw as controlled by Satan and harshly shunned anyone who broke rules that became more and more restrictive. Her father eventually left the cult and the book reflects on a child’s experience of living in a closed community and then breaking out of it. It’s a very hopeful book, since the author was able to build a successful life and even reconcile with her father, but a great reminder of the danger of communities where absolute power is held by a handful of men.
In The Shades, a family loses a daughter to a car accident and each member moves in their own direction. The dad continues his life in London, and hopes, passively, that his wife will go back to their old life. The mom becomes obsessed by a mysterious young woman. The son decides to chuck it all and fight for ecological justice, having latched on to a charismatic teacher at the boarding school where he fled.
In truth, they seem to have been already broken before the death, and the family too. There are some excellent psychological observations, in particular of the son, but the story never quite came together for me.