hardcover, 288 pages
My Thoughts:... A novel about a far-flung family reunited for one weekend by their father's death.Five minutes before her flight is set to take off, Kate Pulaski, failed screenwriter and newly failed wife with scarcely a hundred dollars to her name, learns that her estranged father has killed himself. More shocked than saddened by the news, she gives in to her siblings' request that she join them, along with her many half-siblings and most of her father's five former wives, in Atlanta, their birthplace, for a final farewell.
Reunion by Hannah Pittard is a highly recommended novel that explores the dynamics of sibling relationships when they gather for the funeral after the suicide of their philandering father.
Kate is just flying home to Chicago when she learns of her father's death. Her two older siblings, Nell and Elliot, expect her to immediately board another plane and fly out to Atlanta. Kate's husband Peter, meets her at the airport and puts her on a flight out while Kate tries to dissuade him from his actions. Things are a whole lot more complicated than one would normally guess. See, Kate and Peter are going to get divorced because Kate has had an affair, but she hasn't told Nell or Elliot this yet because the one thing they all agreed on was that they do not condone adultery or cheating.
This means that the idea of attending her father's funeral is just as fraught with tension. Their mother died when Kate was 5 and the older two were 9 and 10. Since then their father has had numerous affairs, 4 ex-wives, and the original three siblings have numerous half-siblings as well. His most recent wife, now widow, Sasha, is around their age and mother of 6 year old Mindy, the youngest half-sibling. Now Nell and Elliot are expecting Kate to go to Atlanta for their father's funeral when, as far as she knows, none of them have been close to the man. Once there the service will likely be tense with all the ex-wives and half-siblings attending. It's a family gathering for a group that doesn't even consider themselves related.
Kate has become astute at hiding her feelings, burying them under "turds and manure." She says, "I was raised. I was raised to smile. I was raised to sit through suffering. I was raised to think that if the yelling got too loud or the humiliation got too painful, you just ignored it. You just ignored it because there was nothing you could do." Now she's about to face all sorts of unpleasantness and doesn't really have a plan in place to deal with it. As is usual in a novel of this ilk, Kate and the others all have secrets they are hiding that will be revealed.
Clearly, dysfunctional families gathering together for a funeral are nothing new. I kept thinking that Reunion reminded me of another book or movie, but the title escapes me. Perhaps it's sort of a combination of The Big Chill with The Family Stone with... something else. Kate is a rather dis-likeable character, but you will find yourself hoping all of her self-evaluation will result in some kind of redemption. For me, clearly, what saved this novel was the writing. It's well written with the characters fleshed out and complete, so even when I wanted to roll my eyes and say "I have had enough of all of you," I cared enough to keep reading to see what would happen next.
Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of Grand Central Publishing for review purposes.