Adam Haslett was sort of an award season darling 15 years ago for a really good collection of short stories called You are Not a Stranger Here. It’s really quite good. His novels have not landed as successfully, until now.
This is such a strong novel. It’s kind of like what if Jonathan Franzen were capable of pathos.
This is the story of a kind of middle-class, kind of strange, kind of fucked up family from Boston, by way of England, who as they grow up in the shadow of mental illness and suicide carve out their space in the world.
There’s nothing particularly sensational about their story, but there is real emotion here. All the different surviving family members have their own problems and issues and sets of limitations and stories to tell, along with their own voices with which to tell them. This is not a story of abandonment, but this is a story of how when one or more people in your close life have various issues how taxing and grueling those can be for them and those around them.
This novel is told from multiple perspectives and lurches a little at the beginning, but as it got going, I found myself reading it in pretty much one sitting. The son Michael’s sections are both the most enlivening and the most saddening as his creative and intelligent slowly gets dulled into to submission of a drug regimen. The end result of this book is a knowing and loving look into a family and a story with a real catharsis.