Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Review: The Children

Summary: From New York Times bestselling author Ann Leary comes the captivating story of a wealthy, but unconventional New England family, told from the perspective of a reclusive 29-year-old who has a secret (and famous) life on the Internet.

Charlotte Maynard rarely leaves her mother’s home, the sprawling Connecticut lake house that belonged to her late stepfather, Whit Whitman, and the generations of Whitmans before him. While Charlotte and her sister, Sally, grew up at “Lakeside,” their stepbrothers, Spin and Perry, were welcomed as weekend guests. Now the grown boys own the estate, which Joan occupies by their grace—and a provision in the family trust. When Spin, the youngest and favorite of all the children, brings his fiancĂ© home for the summer, the entire family is intrigued. The beautiful and accomplished Laurel Atwood breathes new life into this often comically rarefied world. But as the wedding draws near, and flaws surface in the family’s polite veneer, an array of simmering resentments and unfortunate truths is exposed.

With remarkable wit and insight, Ann Leary pulls back the curtain on one blended family, as they are forced to grapple with the assets and liabilities – both material and psychological – left behind by their wonderfully flawed patriarch. -- St. Martin's Press

I don't know about you, but I love all the "Best of Summer Book" lists that have been coming out the past few weeks. One book that seems to be appearing again and again is THE CHILDREN by Ann Leary. I just picked up this book on Sunday evening and finished it in less than 24 hours... and the only reason it took me that long was because I needed a few hours of sleep and I was busy at my kid's school!

THE CHILDREN is about an interesting New England family whose members are definitely keeping some pretty heavy secrets. The story is told through the eyes of 29 year old Charlotte, a recluse who lives with her mom and also just happens to be a famous mommy blogger... even though she has no children.

Charlotte and her mom Joan live in a vast (but worn down) Connecticut lake house that was owned by her late step-father Whit. When Whit died, he left the house to his two sons, Spin and Perry, but promised in a provisioned trust that Joan could live in it for as long as she desired. The lake house is where Charlotte and her sister Sally grew up, with Whit's sons spending the weekends there. Charlotte, Sally and Joan definitely consider this house their home.

When Spin brings his fiance Laurel to the house to meet the family and spend the summer there, both Charlotte and Sally are intrigued by this seemingly perfect woman. Laurel is an Olympic caliber skier, as well as a relative of Ernest Hemingway, and has a MFA from USC. She is also in the process of researching and writing her first novel... which she already has sold. Needless to say the girls are impressed (and even a little intimidated) by Laurel, but Sally (who has episodes where she is a bit paranoid) isn't quite sure that Laurel is everything she claims.

As the wedding rapidly approaches, things begin to fall apart for this family. Sally begins to lose her sense of reality, while Charlotte finds that someone wants her blog investigated for fraud; and both women discover that Laurel might not be a good match for Spin. Disturbing secrets from the past and present are eventually revealed that will forever change the course of this family.

I loved, loved, loved THE CHILDREN! I truly think this novel is the perfect summer read. It's smart and witty, while also exploring some dark secrets about a slightly odd family. It's juicy and entertaining, but it's also thought-provoking and asks, "Do we really know those closest to us?"

There is really so much to like about THE CHILDREN. The story is so engaging and funny, and the characters are just that... real characters. I loved how unique they were, especially Charlotte; and it wasn't until I really got into the story that I realized that the eccentricities could be from some deeper underlying issues from the past. And that's when this entertaining novel became a little darker... a little more serious.

As Charlotte reflected back on what happened to her family, I began to sense that the ending might not be a happy one. The characters began to show some less than stellar behaviors including infidelity, deceit, mistrust and even pure evilness; and I just had a feeling that things weren't going to end well for all of them. The story culminates with a surprise ending; and it did leave me with some questions about what people, even those we consider family, choose to keep hidden from others.

I think THE CHILDREN would make a great book club selection. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to find a formal discussion guide, but I really don't think one's necessary to generate discussion. Some of the themes you might want to explore include family, mental illness, secrets, memory, betrayal, lies, money, class, and appearances.

THE CHILDREN is a fantastic read! Highly recommended to fans of smart and witty fiction!

Thanks to Kathy (aka Bermudaonion) for sharing her copy of this book.


bermudaonion said...

Wasn't this book great? Such a good story and such fabulous characters!

(Diane) bookchickdi said...

You just talked me into going to hear Ann talk tonight at Barnes & Noble.

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