About Families

  1. The Round House
    by Louise Erdrich

    The story of a young man whose mother is raped on disputed (reservation or non-reservation) land. Opening paragraph:  Small trees had attacked my parents’ house at the foundation.  They were just seedlings with one of two rigid, healthy leaves.  Nevertheless, the stalky shoots had managed to squeeze through knife cracks in the decorative brown shingles covering the cement blocks.  They had grown into the unseen wall and it was difficult to pry they loose.  My father wiped his palm across

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  2. Middlesex
    by Jeffrey Eugenides

    The kaleidoscopic story of a hermaphrodite—spanning three generations and two continents, from the small Greek village of Smyrna to the smoggy, crime-riddled streets of Detroit, past historical events, and through family secrets. Opening paragraph: I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day in January of 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974.

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  3. The Corrections
    by Jonathan Franzen

    Complex and fascinating story about a highly dysfunctional family trying to get together for Christmas. First paragraph: The madness of an autumn prairie cold front coming through. You could feel it: something terrible was going to happen. The sun low in the sky, a minor light, a cooling star. Gust after gust of disorder. Quotes from critics: “Large-hearted and merciless, The Corrections is a testament to the range an depth of pleasures great fiction affords” (author David Foster Wallace); “A

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  4. While They Slept
    by Kathryn Harrison

    A chilling and enthralling true life account of a woman who survived her brother’s murder of their parents. Opening paragraph: On the morning of Thursday, April 26, 1984, Jody Gilley went to her neighbor Kathy Ackerson’s before school. As was her habit, she went out the kitchen door and cut across the field that separated their two homes. Jody and Kathy had gotten to know each other the previous year, on the bus to and from Medford High, where they

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  5. Atonement
    by Ian McEwan

    In three beautifully crafted parts, the story starts with a domestic crisis that becomes a crime story; the second part describes the British evacuation at Dunkirk; the third is set in London as the nation mobilizes for war. Opening paragraph:  The play, for which Briony had designed the posters, programmes and tickets, constructed the sales booth out of a folding screen tipped on its side, and lined the collection box in red crepe paper, was written by her in a

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  6. A Suitable Boy
    by Vikram Seth

    Centers around four families in post-Partition India, about both family matters and the surrounding social environment. Very well written.  About 1450 pages, the longest novel ever published in one volume, but so easy to read! Opening paragraphs:  “You too will marry a boy I choose,” said Mrs. Rupa Mehra firmly to her youngest daughter. Lata avoided the maternal imperative by looking around the great lamp-lit garden of Prem Nivas.  The wedding-guests were gathered on the lawn.  “Hmm,” she said.  This

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  7. A Thousand Acres
    by Jane Smiley

    Modern version of King Lear when a father decides to divide his farm among three daughters.  Opening paragraph:  At sixty miles per hour, you could pass our farm in a minute, on County Road 686, which ran due north into the T intersection at Cabot Street Road. Cabot Street Road was really just another country blacktop, except that five miles west it ran into and out of the town of Cabot. On the western edge of Cabot, it became Zebulon

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