Every Happy Family, Dede Crane
Coteau Books, 247 pages
On Sunday mornings, Jill makes a large pot of coffee, calls her mother, and contemplates the change and stress that have crept into the household unnoticed. It’s clear that the Wrights are at some sort of turning point; the days of Jill, Les and their three kids living peacefully under the same roof are coming to an end. Les and his sister are focused on finding their birth mother, Quinn is despondent after a breakup with his first serious girlfriend, and Beau desperately wants to spend his last two years of high school away from home. Then Jill receives a letter from Pema’s Tibetan birth mother, explaining that her situation is finally stable enough to invite Pema to join them at home in Nepal. And when she calls her mother to talk about this last problem, she discovers that her mother is taking in unsuitable boarders and is growing fuzzy about practical details. Jill finds it all overwhelming, and for the first time, she will be required to sit back and watch her family handle their personal crises without her guiding hand.
Every Happy Family follows Jill, Les, Quinn, Beau and Pema as they respond to their issues and live with the consequences. Tolstoy once observed that happy families are all alike, and that every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. Reflective and engaging, Crane explores individual unhappinesses in a largely functional, happy suburban family, focusing particularly on the conflicting needs of freedom and belonging. This work will strongly appeal to readers of Alice Munro, Sandra Birdsell, and David Bergen.