The best fiction to explore the humor and angst of family relationships

The Books I Picked & Why

Girl, Woman, Other

By Bernardine Evaristo

Book cover of Girl, Woman, Other

Why this book?

This book was surprising in both its humor and expansive narrative. Despite being somewhat experimental in its form, I loved this book as it told the stories of 12 British women of color who ranged in ages between 19 and 93 in London. Each life told separately, builds on the others. Spanning issues of class, gender identity, and family, the novel focuses on intersections of experience as generations of women are woven together. 


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Maggie Brown & Others: Stories

By Peter Orner

Book cover of Maggie Brown & Others: Stories

Why this book?

Peter Orner creates a startling intimacy with his characters. In these short, pithy vignettes, we see estranged siblings, dying spouses, missing fathers, and a marriage that is ending.  Orner’s gift is to drop us right into the conflict and emotional action of his characters. Every protagonist feels like someone we know and maybe even loved. His writing is breathtaking. Spanning America of the 80s, his stories take place across the country from California to Chicago to the East Coast.


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Dept. of Speculation

By Jenny Offill

Book cover of Dept. of Speculation

Why this book?

One of the most original voices in contemporary fiction, Offill’s novel is unusual and from my perspective, brilliant. Perspective is what makes this book shine, the story is so direct it feels as if it is originating in the narrator’s innermost thoughts. Weaving facts and articles with slices of daily routine with the narrator’s own thoughts, the reader is propelled forward, almost a participant in the gradual transformation of the narrator as she comes to terms with her husband’s betrayal.  This short, spare book is hard to put down, wise in ways that are hard to articulate and yet Offill succeeds beautifully.


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Olive, Again

By Elizabeth Strout

Book cover of Olive, Again

Why this book?

In these hilarious and often tender interconnected stories, Strout takes off where Olive Kitteridge (her previous book) ended, following her husband’s death. Olive is once again charting new territory with her grown son and his children, a particularly moving and unsentimental story about their visit. After her son leaves, Olive grapples with loneliness and turns to Jack Kennison, a man who is also struggling with his own strained relationship with his daughter. Together they form an unlikely couple, discovering a new realm of intimacy neither expected.  Relationships are at the centerpiece of this collection, and each story gives a glimpse into Olive’s tenacity and courage to grow and find joy wherever it comes. 


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Apples Never Fall

By Liane Moriarty

Book cover of Apples Never Fall

Why this book?

This was a literary mystery that renewed my love of the genre. Beginning with an abandoned bike and the disappearance of Joy, the family matriarch, the novel unfolds through the lens of each grown child’s experience of growing up in the Delaney family. When a stranger arrives at the home one night, fleeing her boyfriend, the story is set in motion. The father, a tennis teacher and director of a tennis school, seems the likely culprit of his wife’s disappearance. But as detectives investigate the missing mother’s disappearance and her relationship to the young woman who arrived at the family home, they uncover old wounds in the marriage. Gradually, as the mystery unfolds, Moriarty reveals the family’s fault lines, eventually leading to the mother’s whereabouts while uncovering the truths about each family member.


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