Tuesday, January 18, 2011
If you happened to read the book description above, it doesn't really tell you too much about DRINKING CLOSER TO HOME by Jessica Anya Blau. And I honestly think that's the best way to read this novel -- without knowing anything beforehand. That's exactly what I did, and I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this book. DRINKING CLOSER TO HOME was a wonderful look at a very special family!
Now everyone out there probably thinks that their family is a little different, but I have to say that the family in DRINKING CLOSER TO HOME was very different. However, I do think that readers will relate (some more than others) to the Steins. I loved how this novel captured family dynamics -- especially messed-up family dynamics; and I found that the relationships between the adult children and their parents, as well as the relationships between the siblings, seemed to be totally authentic (given their upbringing.)
One thing that struck me odd about this book (and I mean that in the nicest way possible) is that I shouldn't have liked the characters very much. Let me explain, the mother left her two daughters to basically take care of the house and raise the youngest son because she was "done" with that job. The children were extremely flawed and self-absorbed in their own very special way. And some of them did some pretty awful things, namely Anna who had affairs with married men, cheated on her husband, etc. What is so strange is that I didn't dislike any of the characters. Rather, the opposite -- I liked all of them very much. In fact, I probably liked Anna and her story the most of anyone in the book despite her negative character traits.
Despite reading (and laughing) about all of the Stein family's issues, I actually thought this book made me think about my own family relationships. Now even at its weirdest, my family is no where as unique (and dysfunctional) as the Steins. However, I appreciated what this novel said about family dynamics. It featured the love between family members as well as the acceptance of them -- bad baggage and all. I also walked away from this story realizing the power of forgiveness and acceptance. Believe me, I wasn't expecting this book to have that effect on me; but I figured if these crazy people could learn to live together in peace after everything they went through, then my relatively normal family could certainly be happy!
I was extremely impressed with Ms. Blau's writing. I thought her character development was terrific as was her dialogue. However, I think what most impressed me about this book was the humor that she managed to infuse into the story. There were times that my heart went out to the children in this family, but much of that time, I was also laughing. And I mean laughing hysterically. The ironic thing was that I'm not sure I should have been laughing at some of the things, but this family was so incredibly insane! Of course, now I want more of Ms. Blau's writing so I'm going to have to get my hands on her first (and award winning) novel THE SUMMER OF NAKED SWIM PARTIES.
I would love to discuss DRINKING CLOSER TO HOME with a bunch of my friends. It really would be a very fun pick for a book club. There is a reading guide available with twelve questions. Some of the topics you might want to explore include parenting, sibling relationships, blame, acceptance, secrets, adultery, addictions, love and devotion as well as the resilience of individuals. In addition, I would love to discuss the "casting" of the DRINKING CLOSER TO HOME movie. This book is just screaming "movie!"
I loved DRINKING CLOSER TO HOME and I highly recommend it. It's a hilarious book that examines complex family dynamics and just might make you appreciate your own family members even more!
Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy of this novel.