This book of dark secrets opens with a blaze. On the morning of her daughter’s wedding, June Reid’s house goes up in flames, destroying her entire family – her present, her past and her future. Fleeing from the carnage, stricken and alone, June finds herself in a motel room by the ocean, hundreds of miles from her Connecticut home, held captive by memories and the mistakes she has made with her only child, Lolly, and her partner, Luke.
In the turbulence of grief and gossip left in June’s wake we slowly make sense of the unimaginable. The novel is a gathering of voices, and each testimony has a new revelation about what led to the catastrophe – Luke’s alienated mother Lydia, the watchful motel owners, their cleaner Cissy, the teenage pothead who lives nearby – everyone touched by the tragedy finds themselves caught in the undertow, as their secret histories finally come to light.
Lit by the clarity of understanding that true sadness brings, Did You Ever Have a Family is an elegant, unforgettable story that reveals humanity at its worst and best, through loss and love, fracture and forgiveness. At the book’s heart is the idea of family – the ones we are born with and the ones we create – and the desire, in the face of everything, to go on living.
When I began to read this book I immediately liked the style of writing. There is little description and it takes on an almost voyeuristic approach to observing the characters. I could see this working so well as a film, it seems very visual in the way it is written.
The book opens with someone seemingly unconnected to what happens - that is true for a few of the chapters, but in time all becomes clear.
Unfortunately I think for me, I read this book in chunks, I would recommended reading it in larger portions as I just kept losing the thread. The chapters are each the names of characters, and although there are some main players there are also minor characters that get introduced and sometimes reintroduced later and I had just forgotten about them. Each character tells the story from their perspective and sometimes their is a little back story too.
It's a clever book, well written but for some reason it just didn't resonate with me. Such a sad story - to one day have lost all of your family, particularly before one of them is about to marry. However, I never really got the sadness from the writing.