Did You Ever Have a Family.

Position:Book review


Did You Ever Have a Family

By Bill Clegg


Bill Clegg, a literary agent in New York, is the author of two memoirs about his cocaine addiction and recovery: Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man (***1/2 Sept/Oct 2010) and Ninety Days (2012). His first novel, long-listed for the Booker Prize and part of a two-book deal, is the first offering from a new Simon & Schuster imprint.

THE STORY: On the eve of June Reid's daughter's wedding, a rickety old stove in her Connecticut country home leads to fire and tragedy: the death of her daughter Lolly and Lolly's fiance, as well as June's much younger boyfriend and her ex-husband. Told through the eyes of a dozen narrators, from a teenage pothead and Luke's outcast mother to the seemingly peripheral florists and caterers, the tragedy (was it accidental?) and its aftermath uncover grudges, wrongdoings, and secrets held by the small town's residents. As the attractive and privileged June flees the town beset by grief, she drives west until she reaches a small motel in the even smaller community of Moclips, Washington, where she quietly settles and tries to come to terms with her surviving relationships and with what really happened that tragic night.

Gallery/Scout Press. 304 pages. $26. ISBN: 9781476798172

Entertainment Weekly ****

"Clegg draws [all his characters] with swift resonant strokes, and uses the tragedy--from the beginning, some suspect that it wasn't accidental at all--to unearth the old grudges and transgressions roiling beneath the small town's placid surface. ... A few moments in Family feel overly engineered, as if all the expertly wrought novels that have crossed Clegg's desk as an agent taught him to calibrate for maximum emotional impact almost too well"

Guardian (UK) ****

"From the ashes of the fatal blaze Clegg has drawn a tale of prodigious tenderness and lyricism.... [Clegg] understands better than most the emotional damage we wreak on one another, the crushing burden we are condemned to carry when we make mistakes with catastrophic consequences that can never be undone" CLARE CLARK

Los Angeles Times ****

"One of Clegg's themes, also highlighted in Ninety Days, is how compassion can bridge class and educational divides, including the gap that separates Litchfield County's wealthy weekenders, 'the pampered and demanding New Yorkers,' and the locals who take care of them, their children and their properties.... Like his memoirs, Clegg's emotionally direct, polished novel...

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