The Joys of Family
By Rhonna Hargett, Adult and Teen Services Manager
As we dive into the holiday season, one consistent theme isfamily. Families always look so great in commercials, but we all know that reallife is more complex than that. I’ve selected some fiction that exploresfamilies in many different forms, along with the joys and sorrows thataccompany family dynamics.
In The Clock Dance by Anne Tyler, we read about the points on the clock of Willa Drake’s life. In 1967, her mother disappears and we see through her young eyes how she copes with this and how it changes her. In 1977, we meet her boyfriend, get a view into her thoughts as she considers a marriage proposal, and read about a disturbing incident on her first airplane ride. Finally in 2017, she drops everything to fly off and help someone with whom she only has the most tenuous of connections. This exposes Willa to a very different life than what she has experienced in the past and forces her to examine what family means to her.Pulitzer Prize-winning Tyler demonstrates her established reputation as a master of the re-examined life to this touching and ultimately optimistic novel.
The Tuscan Child by Rhys Bowen explores how World War II reverberated through families for decades after it ended. In 1973, Joanna Langley is recovering from an upheaval in her life when she receives the news that her father has died. Although their relationship was fractious, she finds herself mourning as she sorts through his belongings and discovers parts of his life that were hidden from her. She knew that he had fought in the war and that he had been shot down over Italy, but the treasures in a small box make her wonder if there is more to the story. When she finds a love letter that was returned unopened right after the war, she goes to Italy in an attempt to understand more about the man her father was. In Tuscany she finds little information and more mysteries, but also a place of healing. Bowen is known for her mystery writing, and there is a satisfying who-dun-it tucked in the novel, but it is really a story of a daughter coming to terms with the choices her father made and the consequences of them on her own life. Although there’s a contemplative and bittersweet undertone throughout the book, Joanna’s drive to find contentment and her pleasure in the sights and tastes of Tuscany make for an enjoyable read.
In A Place for Us, debut author Fatima Farheen Mirza tells the story of an Indian-American Muslim family in California. During the planning of eldest daughter Hadia’s wedding,she announces that she will be contacting her long-estranged younger brother, Amar, and asking him to fulfill his role as brother of the bride. The book goes back and forth in time, exploring the unique dynamics of being a first generation immigrant family, the mistakes that parents make with the best of intentions, and rising above all else, the powerful love that continues to dwell in a family even when it is broken. A Place for Us is an opportunity to delve into the unique perspective of immigrants, but it also illuminates the similarities that run through many families in our society. Although the novel broke my heart a little bit, it is ultimately inspirational in the hope that love and light will show through the cracks in the walls that families sometimes build.
Our online resource, Novelist Plus, has suggestions for related fiction in the list Family Ties, available from the Reading & Research page at www.MHKlibrary.org.