Whether we like it or not, most of us are part of a family unit. These first and formative bonds effect our future relationships in ways we may never fully understand. And the American family has long been a source of material for writers: whether these characters are juggling their changing responsibilities in the post-Vietnam era, tackling single-parenthood, or navigating a fraught and fractured relationship with a sibling, these five family fictions are sure to have you commiserating over the best and worst kind of family drama.
Domestic Affairs, by Joyce Maynard
This collection of Joyce Maynard’s popular weekly column is an intimate look at her life as a mother of three and wife. Maynard’s essays, written in unfiltered sincerity look at family life in rural New Hampshire. These humorous essays are so full of detail and insight that the reader feels like they’re stepping into Maynard’s life, sharing a cup of coffee and family antics.
Wide Open, by Nicola Barker
Winner of the 2000 IMPAC International Dublin Literary Award, Wide Open isn’t your typical family novel. The protagonists are strange, their lives creepy, and their relationships unclear. This novel follows characters connected only by proximity—all living in a bleak stretch along the Thames called Isle of Sheppey—through abandonment, redemption, and a sad-tinged hopefulness. Barker’s prose, lauded as widely original and addictive, will keep you hooked as you follow the ins and outs of this eccentric cast of characters.
Carriage Trade, by Stephen Birmingham
Wealth, fame, name-recognition, and murder? Stephen Birmingham’s family thriller Carriage Trade is a look inside the fictional Tarkington family, who own and run an ultra-rich retail establishment in the best parts of Manhattan. Miranda, daughter of the now-late Silas, steps up to help run the company after her father’s mysterious death. But instead of contracts, business meetings, and paperwork, Miranda finds herself in a tangle of Silas’s women—wives, mistresses, and estranged daughters—and realizes that her picture-perfect family had secrets almost as big as their fortune.
Table Money, by Jimmy Breslin
The Morrisons are your average working class Irish family living in Queens. Owney, a hero during the Vietnam war, now digs tunnels and fights a nightly battle with the bottle. Dolores, determined to live a better life for herself and her baby daughter, is faced with the decision: stay with her husband and try to help him, or move out and become an independent woman her daughter can admire. Clever and moving, Breslin’s novel takes a look at the way the American Family was changing in the 1970s.
Such Devoted Sisters, by Eileen Goudge
This novel follows two sets of sisters, Hollywood actresses Eve and Dolly, and Eve’s daughters Annie and Laurel, who are pitted against each other when they realize they love the same man. But as they learn more about their mother and their aunt, they’re forced to wonder—will history repeat itself and tear the sisters apart for good?