Family: can’t live with ‘em, can’t live without ‘em. Truer words were never spoken. If you think that your family is full of drama, you’re not alone. Family is a source of inspiration for many great novels. Some follow families over a week and others over generations. There are stories about families that would do anything for one another, and tales of families ripped apart by secrets.
Need a little family time? Or just a break from yours? Pick out one of these family sagas and grab a drink of choice. No judgement here.
Come, My Beloved
This book follows the definition of family saga so well it should be under the term in a dictionary. It's a sweeping tale that takes place over decades and four generations of one family. Oh, and it also involves settings across the globe, just like all classic family sagas should.
Meet millionaire David MacArd. His decision to start a seminary in Bombay, India will impact his family, for better or for worse. This epic tackles the difficult topics that are usually avoided at the family Thanksgiving table: religion, race and relationships. Follow David, his son, grandson and great granddaughter as they navigate their lives on courses chartered not by choices but by destiny.
Her Sister's Tattoo
Is blood thicker than water? How far would you go to protect your family? This is a central question of many family sagas, but in this novel, there's a twist: sometimes, protecting one family member means hurting another.
In the 1960s, Rose and Esther have matching tattoos and are also marching in step to protest the war in Vietnam. Rosa is all in with her political conviction but when both sisters are facing arrest for their actions, Esther is torn. She has her values, her sister and her daughter to consider and there is only one choice to be made.
Rosa and Esther’s daughters meet years later and the consequences of Esther’s choice decades before become painfully clear.
The Floating Feldmans
Let’s call this a more light-hearted, contemporary version of a family saga. This is a comical tale that follows three generations of Feldmans as they converge on a cruise ship to celebrate the birthday of their matriarch. (Who thought that was a good idea?)
Through alternating points of view and memories of the past, Friedland paints pictures of life in the Feldman family, then and now. There is the couple that started it all, now in their golden years. The two adult children, that don’t feel so grownup when the family gets together. And don’t forget the young adult grandkids, who are more caught up in their own drama to notice the family dynamics.
Will this trip bring them all closer together after the hurts that often occur unintentionally in addition to the blatant ones, or will this be a disaster just short of the Titanic?
Some American families seem to garner as much attention as the British royals. They may not have crowns and castles, but they do have plenty of secrets. So, it is with the fictional Story family of Massachusetts. This novel capitalizes on the fascination of exclusive, wealthy and often tragic, famous families. Four beautiful children live on an island with their parents. They are the envy of all the island’s inhabitants, only to be disinherited by their mother without any explanation.
This story is told by the three grandchildren of the reclusive, disinheriting Mildred Story and are called back to the island to get to know their grandmother better. Each has their own reason for agreeing to work at the Story resort for the summer and all want to know what led to the cutting off of family ties. What would their lives have been like with all that wealth? But even more importantly, why were they estranged in the first place?
A French Wedding
Some families we are born into, and some we make for ourselves. Who says family sagas only can star those families who are related? In this modern version of the Big Chill, six college friends get together for a milestone birthday of their most “successful” member at his chateau in France. This group has kept in touch over the years and has had their own trials and tribulations, triumphs, miscommunications and unrequited love.
With the group and their partners and offspring in tow, the weekend starts off as a nostalgic blast from the past but devolves into a lot of drama, much like any other family get together—but this time, one of the original six might not make it out alive.
Sometimes epic tales can’t be contained in one book and need to spread out into others. Such is the case with Manchu. If you’re really ready to tumble headfirst into a grand tale told in multiple countries with many characters over many years, then you’ll want to read the first in this trilogy followed by Mandarin and Dynasty.
You start off in the 17th Century with an English orphan raised in a Catholic religious order in France. He becomes quite interested in the military and the opportunities it can afford, including joining the Portuguese to help thwart the Manchu in China. And that’s just the first book. The others take you into the nineteenth and twentieth centuries with other related stories using China as a main thread.
We end on a rather non-conventional way of telling a family saga. If you want a family tree for this one, you’ll have to draw it yourself. Mixing up the formula, Yehoshua introduces the reader to the Mani family one by one in a clever device of conversation, five to be precise.
The setting of the story keeps changing based on the speaker having the conversation, and the reader goes further and further back in time as the novel progresses. While never overtly divulging how the characters are related, the author leaves room to glean the connection in each of the conversations to the Mani family, making this family saga a bit of a mysterious puzzle to be put together.