Family by Caroline Leavitt
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I received an ARC from NetGalley for **Family** by *Caroline Leavitt* in exchange for an honest review. Caroline Leavitt has also written **Into Thin Air** which is what prompted me to read **Family**.
This story begins with Nick Austen in the 1950's when his family was intact, and life seemed perfect. Tom and Helen, Nick's parents treated Nick a bit differently from the way his friends' parents treated them. There were no harsh restrictions even so far as when he was expected home for dinner. He went in when he wanted to. If dinner was still there on the table and hot, he could eat. If it wasn't available any longer, he was free to make himself a sandwich. He chose his own clothing. He also decided on his own punishments. Even though there were not many restrictions, there were still rules, and if he broke them it was up to him to decide what his punishment should be. He always chose something that truly was a punishment for him. He was growing up to be strong and proud, and he loved his parents dearly.
Tom found a stray yellow cat and brought it home for Nick. However, Tom was the only person the cat seemed to like. Tom was not happy with his job, and he often talked about finding something else. He applied for a job in California, and he got an interview. The day the family was supposed to leave for California, the cat disappeared, and no one could find it in the house. Tom and Helen decided to go out looking and told Nick to stay at home in case the cat showed up there. The cat did not show up. Instead two policemen came to the door to tell Nick that both his parents had been run down by a car while standing on the side of the road. Both of them had been killed.
Nick became a ward of the state, and he did the rest of his growing up in institutional surroundings. He was never the same boy after that. When he was grown, had a job of his own, and on his way to a career in being a book salesman, he quite by accident met Dore. They met because Dore was blind as a bat without her glasses, and they literally ran into each other as Dore was groping her way down a hall trying to get to a spare pair of glasses. Dore was a school teacher, and Nick just happened to be in that same school, meeting with the librarian hoping to get a book order. As it turned out the librarian gave Nick quite a large book order, so Nick was feeling on top of the world and wanted to see more of Dore. She was a little reluctant at first, but eventually she and Nick became an item. They decided to live together, and Nick thought it would be a good idea to live in a house trailer rather than rent an apartment Or wait until they could buy a house. When Dore became pregnant, they were delighted, but the issue of marriage was off the table. Dore did not want to marry Nick just because she was pregnant, so the issue was not discussed further. Dore's parents were horrified that their daughter was "living in sin" AND on top of that, residing in a trailer park with no intention of moving.
Once again, life was good for Nick. He and Dore were crazy about each other; neither of them had any need to associate with anyone besides each other. Dore had a baby girl who both she and Nick loved beyond all else. And then tragedy struck again, and again, there seemed to be no way for Nick to make it right or get around it. Again, life as he treasured it was no longer an option.
The story goes on from there to reveal what both Nick and Dore do to themselves and each other in an effort to keep going. Neither of them is particularly good at it, but they try and try some more. Caroline Leavitt has a way of putting the reader right into the minds of her characters. She reveals what turmoil each goes through, and as the reader, I could not put the book down. These characters took on a reality because their situations were so believable as possibilities for true to life circumstances. Leavitt makes this story brand new, and she continues to surprise with events I did not see coming.
I highly recommend **Family** to readers who enjoy reading about characters with depth, as well as very good stories that give the reader something to think about. There are more characters in the book than I have covered in this review, and they all have an impact to what happens in the end to Nick and Dore. It was a satisfying ending to a well thought out story, and worth every one of those 5 Stars.
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