Review: Did You Ever Have a Family

November 4, 2015 book review, family, fiction, simon and schuster 5

Did you ever have a family

  • Written by:  Bill Clegg
  • Published by:  Scout Press, an imprint of Simon and Schuster, September 1, 2015
  • Length:  304 pages
  • Source:  Publisher in exchange for an honest review

Summary:  The stunning debut novel from bestselling author Bill Clegg is a magnificently powerful story about a circle of people who find solace in the least likely of places as they cope with a horrific tragedy.

On the eve of her daughter’s wedding, June Reid’s life is completely devastated when a shocking disaster takes the lives of her daughter, her daughter’s fiancé, her ex-husband, and her boyfriend, Luke—her entire family, all gone in a moment. And June is the only survivor.

Alone and directionless, June drives across the country, away from her small Connecticut town. In her wake, a community emerges, weaving a beautiful and surprising web of connections through shared heartbreak.

From the couple running a motel on the Pacific Ocean where June eventually settles into a quiet half-life, to the wedding’s caterer whose bill has been forgotten, to Luke’s mother, the shattered outcast of the town—everyone touched by the tragedy is changed as truths about their near and far histories finally come to light.

Elegant and heartrending, and one of the most accomplished fiction debuts of the year, Did You Ever Have a Family is an absorbing, unforgettable tale that reveals humanity at its best through forgiveness and hope. At its core is a celebration of family—the ones we are born with and the ones we create. (publisher)

My Thoughts: There was a lot of chatter about this book before it’s publication.  It was also a Mann Booker Prize nominee on the long list and is also nominated for National Book Award for Fiction.  I was intrigued by the title and the synopsis.  When you lose your whole family where does it leave you?  What is family?  Bill Clegg manages to weave a story that eventually answers these questions and gives us insight into what makes us whole as humans.

June’s story is shown in flashbacks or snippets of her earlier life.  Life with her former husband and daughter, the estranged relationships they all shared.  Her surprising relationship with Luke, and much younger and lessor educated man, most couldn’t see the attraction between the two of them.  We are also show the life of Luke, and his hard scrapple up bringing, his mother who worked so hard but received zero respect.

The lives and stories of many others are examined in Did You Ever Have a Family.  I was touched by the intermingling of these stories, how June went cross country to find a place of peace and how it also landed her in the perfect place for such a pursuit.  Given space and time to grieve, others are led to June to grieve with her and yet not intrude.

I really loved this book, it’s emotional but not overwhelmingly sad or maudlin.  I highly recommend it and I look forward to what is next from Bill Clegg.  The author has two previous books that are memoirs of his drug addiction, Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man and Ninety Days: A Memoir of Recovery.   He is also a literary agent.

5 Responses to “Review: Did You Ever Have a Family”

  1. Sarah's Book Shelves

    I think you hit the nail on the head with this line: “it’s emotional but not overwhelmingly sad or maudlin”. I absolutely loved this book and was trying to put my finger on why…and I landed on the fact that I was drawn in emotionally. I wasn’t torn to pieces or anything…just very invested I guess. It’s one of my faves of 2015.

  2. crimeworm

    I’ve got a copy of this, but hadn’t got round to reading it, but your review – and the comments – make me feel I should! ASAP!

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