Was anyone else skeptical about this one going in? Based on the fact that it was written by a well known agent and being used to launch a new imprint, I couldn’t help feeling like much of the buzz was hot air. It took a ton of raving from several trusted sources before I sucked it up and got to reading, but I’m quite glad I did.
I wish I could remember where I first heard/read about Family, because it was before all the buzz and thus I managed to escape this feeling (for the most part). I am usually a contrarian when it comes to buzz books, so I’m glad this one went down as it did. I hadn’t heard of Clegg and didn’t know the story of the imprint until late in the game. When the buzz really started, I was already all-in on the story. For some reason, it was just one of those books for me. The synopsis moved something in my guts from the get-go and the later buzz did nothing to sway me. I’m grateful for that, because this is a read I won’t soon forget and will be on my year’s best list for sure. Was anyone disappointed?
I was a wee bit skeptical. I almost expected it to sound…”agent-y.” I was worried it would be formulaic, or maybe too clever? Nope. I was wrong. I was thoroughly impressed with this book and it deserves both the buzz and the inclusion on the Booker Prize longlist.
I didn’t know any of the buzz until after the fact so I went in cold except for hearing how many bloggers loved it. I think Jennifer was the first person who piqued my interest.
While I was in the middle of reading, Lauren posed an amazing question that really kept me thinking: Which character did you find most tragic? It took some turning over, but I eventually landed on Silas, mostly because of his youth. He didn’t lose anyone close to him in the fire, but to be so young and have that guilt hanging over you…ugh. I feel like that can do some serious damage.
I’m glad the question didn’t take away from your reading, because I later thought it was an unthoughtful inquiry to raise before you’d read the book. It occurred to me while reading that almost all of our characters, most certainly June and Lydia, were living out difficulties of their own making. Granted, they chose the paths they did based on many factors, often for what they thought were the right reasons, but they still made their own beds. It really struck me with some power towards the end, as the “truths” unfolded, that Luke was the one main character who seemed to have made no such decision and yet was so tragically impacted by the decisions and unfair/unwarranted views of others. To me, he was the most tragic by a pretty good margin. But I also think your answer to the question was a good one, Shannon, and one I hadn’t even considered I was so sold on Luke. Anyone have another nomination (for this uplifting question)?
I don’t know if she was the most tragic but I think of June fairly often. The way she drove away and ended up moving into a motel strikes me as so devastatingly sad. Maybe it’s because I can picture myself doing the exact same thing.
I’m with Lauren. From the beginning Luke struck me as the saddest because he was never fairly judged. At the same time I can see how Silas could be tragic because he’ll never know whether he was responsible or not. I actually found June’s sadness to be in the fact that her daughter never knew the truth about her father- that June sacrificed her relationship with Lolly. I doubt I would have been that noble. Correction: I know I would not have been.
One of the things I found most remarkable about Clegg’s writing is his ability to start with this epic tragedy and yet still drop the floor on the reader over and over again. How much lower can you get when you start by blowing up four people on the eve of a wedding? Yet it seemed with every chapter he would drop some small detail that would make me swear audibly, both in angst and wonder at his talent. There were several moments like this, but one I remember clearly was when June found the suitcases in the trunk of the car. That one got an F-word out of me akin to Ralphie’s “Fuuuuuuuuudge!” in A Christmas Story. I found those little gut-punching details simply brilliant. Did anyone else have those moments where you thought we’d hit bottom, only to have the rug pulled out from under you again?
I was going to mention the suitcase moment! I think I had an audible reaction, too. Most of what really got me related to June, for whatever reason. I lost it a bit when she found and started reading the notebooks and letter.
Even though Clegg masters the floor-dropping and gut-wrenching, it didn’t feel like a depressing book to me. Am I alone in that? I didn’t necessarily come out of it feeling cheery, but it seems like there’s an overall theme of closure or acceptance that inches it away from heaviness toward the end.
Oh, yes, the notebooks and letter were another of those moments. Blank pages? *sob* But despite that, I’m right there with you on not finding it depressing. I found elements of it depressing, for sure. It seemed whatever could go wrong went wrong. But I also saw the light in it and was buoyed by those who became the new support systems for our characters just as the characters were. I saw hope between the layers of my guts on the floor.
I’m with you. Given how tragic the event and its aftermath were I didn’t end up feeling depressed, which is kind of odd.I don’t know why, but the fact that Clegg left me with an understanding of each character was enough.
Handselling this one at the bookstore can be difficult because I have a hard time describing it to customers. It’s not exactly depressing but it’s certainly not uplifting. It’s dark but human. There’s a theme of regret with a healthy dose of redemption. It’s about grief but it’s more complicated than a simple tale of woe. It’s not an easy book to define but I keep pressing it into people’s hands with an appeal to trust me and read it.
I think you just sold it brilliantly.
What about you, reader, how did this book make you feel? Which characters did you identify with most?