A Good Read: Fictional clans put ‘fun’ in dysfunction

It’s the time of year when the opportunity for family festivities can leave you wondering if everyone’s kin is crazy or if it’s just yours.

It’s the time of year when the opportunity for family festivities can leave you wondering if everyone’s kin is crazy or if it’s just yours.

Rest assured, you’re not alone.

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The following adult fiction books explore an assortment of family dynamics, antics and drama that might just give you a bit of comfort in knowing that everybody’s family is a little dysfunctional.

Shaker Heights is an outwardly perfect town, with perfect houses filled with perfect families. When Mia and her daughter Pearl arrive in Shaker Heights, Mia promises that they will stay put, even after she completes her latest photography project.

While Mia’s enigmatic ways do not exactly mesh with the conventional views of the town, Pearl settles in and becomes close with the seemingly idyllic Richardson family.

After a contested adoption shakes up the town, and Mia and Mrs. Richardson become embroiled in it, it becomes clear that there are no flawless families. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng poignantly examines how the bonds of motherhood are differently defined, and how no mother’s relationship with their child is perfect or uncomplicated.

Toby fancies himself a good person, a nice guy with a great girlfriend, decent friends and a successful career. After a night out with his mates, he is attacked in his apartment during a supposed burglary. Left with various injuries and memory loss, Toby agrees to move into the Ivy House with his dying uncle Hugo, where he spent his childhood summers with his cousins.

Joined by his girlfriend, Melissa, they all fall into a comfortable routine. After a secret is discovered in the tree in the garden, Toby begins to question if anything ever was as he once thought it to be. The Witch Elm by Tana French follows family relationships as they develop and unravel in ways no one expects in this character driven crime fiction novel.

Things are not going well for Andy. His wife left him for a paramedic; his mother is trying to be a Fox news anchor preaching the sanctity of heterosexual marriage; his father is obsessed with the squirrels sabotaging his bird feeders; his grandfather is dying; his brother is a jerk; and the one person who is seemingly kind to him isn’t at all who she says she is.

When Andy returns home to Omaha to visit his dying grandfather, he struggles to come to terms with his own issues while becoming intertwined with his family’s glitter-bombed drama. We’re all Damaged by Matthew Norman reminds us that no one’s family is flawless and being an adult in no way means you have it all together.

The Caregiver, the last novel by Samuel Park, tells the story of Mara, a Brazilian woman who finds herself in California after fleeing her home country. Told in two time periods — Mara as a child and Mara as an adult — she learns the truth about her mother’s involvement with Brazilian revolutionaries and a corrupt police chief.

As an adult, taking care of a woman dying of stomach cancer, Mara begins to better understand the role of a caretaker and the decisions her mother had made. The Caretaker is a heartbreaking book that delves into the complicated relationship between a mother and daughter and the sacrifice that is needed to take care of someone.

The Plumb siblings have all been counting on their inheritance — or “the nest,” as they liked to call it for years. Once Melody, the youngest, turns 40, the trust will finally be delivered and the four siblings will be able to get themselves out of the various disastrous situations they have gotten themselves into.

Months before the trust is to be delivered, the oldest brother, Leo, crashes his car after an evening of debauchery, putting the nest in jeopardy for everyone.

Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney’s The Nest exposes how the prospect of money can affect a family and what the cost to the relationships might really be.

Looking for more good reads? Visit your local library.

A Good Read is a column by Tri-City librarians that is published on Wednesdays. Heather Hadley works at Port Moody Public Library. 

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