Anybody who is honest will tell you they have a moment on Thanksgiving where they’ve though “I can’t believe this is my family./!” Whether there is a period or an exclamation point depends largely on the year, what’s going on in the family, and if you have a headache or not.
As my sister would say “I dunno, man, families are hard.” Even for those of us who were fortunate enough to grow up in fabulous families there are some times we need a little perspective on how lucky we are. If you are in need of a little perspective this Thanksgiving scan through the list and find a book to read on the way to your family gathering. If you find yourself starting at a poorly made green bean casserole wondering if you could fall on a fork in such a way you’d need to go to the hospital think to yourself… “At Least I’m not a Kennedy.”
If any of these books look good to you click-through to view it on Amazon. It’s no cost to you but it helps me pay for gas to make it home for the day after Thanksgiving shopfest.
10. Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
Every family has its own form of dysfunction, and that is certainly true for Lee family. In the very first sentence of the book their daughter Lydia dies. What ensues is a family trying to put their life back together, and the struggle they have to see and be seen. It beautifully articulates the challenge we all have to relate to our mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, siblings and children. What makes this book so perfect is it is not so outlandish that it couldn’t be your family, but crazy enough you’ll be grateful for the family you have.
9. The Middlesteins: A Novel by Jami Attenburg
My sister and I both love horrible reality TV, although I’m sure for different reasons, I secretly love knowing that my life isn’t as big of a mess as some people’s. The Middlesteins are like that reality TV show family you love to hate. Edie Middlestein is addicted to food. Her husband leaves her because she is impossibly fat. Their children, each in their own way, become obsessed with coping with the loss be it though controlling food, pot, or hatred. A quick, fun, read.
8. Damage by Josephine Hart
Stephen is a middle aged member of parliament with a “perfect” family and everything he could possibly want. Until his son brings home his new finance. Anna is young, beautiful and seductive and Stephen is smitten. Without a doubt the only possible thing to do when you think your son’s future wife is pretty is to sleep with her, so he and Anna begin an affair. Unless you are having to asking your dad (who is also your lover’s lover) to pass the potatoes your Thanksgiving isn’t so bad.
7. Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
The queen of dysfunction strikes again. Gillian Flynn (the horrible genius behind Gone Girl) tells the story of Camille Preaker, a struggling young woman who returns to her hometown to cover the murder of two teen girls. While there is a serial killer lurking the most terrifying monster is her mother. Unless your mother is literally driving you and your siblings crazy. I mean literally. We are talking institutions, then buck up and wash the dishes… she spent all morning cooking.
6. Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter by Kate Clifford Larson
Full review here.
This book isn’t a novel… but you won’t be disappointed. It’s a biography of Rosemary Kennedy, who you may not have heard of. Rosemary suffered from lack of oxygen at birth causing learning difficulties. Kennedy’s, if you didn’t know, don’t have learning difficulties. After years of trying to let her grow out of it Rosemary was eventually given a lobotomy, a procedure her mother knew nothing about and lived the rest of her life in a group home.
Unless your parents make you weigh in after Thanksgiving (an actually Kennedy thing) take a deep breath and have another glass of wine. It’s not that bad.
5. The Infinities by John Banville
When I was a little girl my mom used to read Classic Myths to Read Outloud by William F Russel to us before we went to bed at night. I used to love the complex lives of the gods and goddesses as they proved soap operas are really not a new idea. I was inspired by my mom to pick up this book and I was glad I did. Adam is in a coma waiting to die. He has spent years mistreating his family and as they flitter around the house (and in and out of his room) he observes them. But he is not the only one watching. Zeus, Hermes and other gods are also hanging out, playing with the emotions and actions of the household. This modern-day mythology will help you to realize that while Aunt Beatrice may have infinite flatulence at least she not immortal.
4. The Misadventures of Sulliver Pong: A Novel by Leland Cheuk
The Pongs have had their fair share of racism and difficulties over the years. Sullener Pong recognizes the dysfunction in his family and is determined to get out, a goal he achieves with excellence. Until his father, the mayor of his hometown, sucks him back into the world of corruption. Sulliver’s only option, really, is to run against his father in the next election. This is one of those laugh out loud funny books that will have you realizing you didn’t have it so bad growing up. A bonus is if you check out the rating on Amazon or Goodreads it’s almost 100% positive.
3. The Poisonwood Bible: A Novel by Barbara Kingsolver
I went through a super religious phase when I was in high school and picked up this book because of the name and the description of a missionary family. Oh boy, was I in for a ride. Missionary preacher Nathan price is determined to convert the heathens of the Congo and moves his entire family there to achieve his goal. He is disgustingly self righteous in public as well as emotionally and physically abusive in private. As their lives unravel you want to pull Nathan out and slap him around while quietly whisking the women off to a shelter. So when your dad tells the same dad joke for the four millionth time this holiday season be grateful you aren’t sitting in the Congo.
2. The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen
This is story of the Lamberts, a screwed up family with incredible dynamics. Father Alfred is dying of Parkinson’s and his wife, Enid, is determined to bring the whole family together for one last Christmas. Their three adult children are livings lives that are bizarre in their own right. As bad things happen to them you won’t feel all that sorry and maybe even take a twinge of pleasure in their misfortune. The character development in this novel is astounding and there’s a hefty amount of suspense to keep you intrigued.
1. The Game of Throne Series by George R.R. Martin
Really. Do I need to expand on this? The single most dysfunctional family in the history of families. If your family comes even close to this I got nothing for you. Call the cops.