Family History

Family History

by Dani Shapiro

Overview: Rachel Jensen is perfectly happy: in love with her husband, devoted to their daughter Kate, gratified by her work restoring art. And finally, sheís pregnant again. But as Rachel discovers, perfection can unravel in an instant. The summer she is thirteen, Kate returns from camp sullen, angry, and withdrawn. Everyone assures Rachel itís typical adolescent angst. But then Kate has a terrifying accident with her infant brother, and the ensuing guilt brings forth a dreadful lieóone that ruptures their family, perhaps irrevocably. Family History is a mesmerizing journey through the mysteries of adolescent pain and family crisis.

Deanna Boe (04/18/19): I am not sure why I reserved this book at the library. I was not familiar with the author, but obviously something I had read made me do it. It is not a recent book, but interesting and well written. The book begins with Rachel lying in bed watching family movies. It is obvious that she is depressed and not happy; we soon realize she is living alone except for her two year old son. She forces herself to get up and get organized to go pick up her two year old son at pre-school. It doesnít take much to realize something is wrong in her life, just the way she reacts to other mothers also picking up their children. It is only as the book progresses that we are able to begin to understand just what is wrong in her life.

We learn how Rachel met her husband in New York City. Ned was a painter and she was working on her doctorate in art restoration. Where else would you live if you both want to be in the art world? They do not plan on starting a family for many years, but, unfortunately, that is not to be. When they learn she is pregnant it changes all their plans for the future. You have the feeling that Ned would just as soon she had an abortion, but it is never stated as such. Now what? They donít have enough money to remain in the city, so they move to the small community where Ned was raised and still has family. Rachel gives up working on her doctorate and Ned becomes a teacher and only paints on the side. We learn all of this as the book progresses. What we do realize is her husband is not living with her and the daughter they had after they had left New York City is not living at home either. Where is the husband? Is the daughter living with him? Where does this son, who is only two years old, fit into the picture? All of this only becomes clear as the book develops. What you do know is that Rachel is in agony but why?

I donít always like these type of books that jump back and forth from the present to the past, leaving you very confused and only slowly do you grasp the whole picture as to what is happening. This was especially true with this one since it took awhile to find out where the daughter was and why she was there. Why was Ned living in a small apartment away from Rachel since they obviously still loved each other? Just what had happened to their son since he appears to have problems? I donít want to tell more than this since it does have a tantalizing storyline and can practically be finished in one sitting. I will look for other books by this author.
Rating: ****

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