Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The Exact Nature of Our Wrongs

The Exact Nature of Our Wrongs by Janet Peery
St. Martin's Press: 9/19/17
eBook review copy; 288 pages
ISBN-13: 9781250125088

The Exact Nature of Our Wrongs by Janet Peery is a highly recommended look at the dysfunctional, aging Campbell family.

In Amicus, Kansas, the Campbell family has long been through the actions of their patriarch, Abel. Long retired, Abel was a town lawyer and later a judge. He ruled his family, including Hattie, his wife, via his scathing comments, exacting expectations, and demanded to be the center of attention. Hattie wonders of their family, once well-regarded by the community, is now considered to be to total decline as all of her and Abel's children were, and some are still, plagued by alcoholism, drug addictions, divorces, and foreclosures.

Of the five surviving children, it is the youngest, Billy, who receives the brunt of his father's loathing, yet the bulk of his mother's love and ever-present enabling. The rest of the siblings know Billy's issues, even as they deal with their own. Certainly it is Billy's health and addictions that have monopolized the family discourse for years.

This is a family drama where the family members are all playing out long-held roles despite the fact that the parents are in their late 80's, heading to 90s, with children in their early 50's to mid-sixties. The roles they have played and continue to play in their family's dynamics remain predictable and consistent, as the members seem to be unchanged, or unable to change and part ways with the familial role they have consistently acted out. And Hattie, bless her heart, plays favorites with such devotion that it is amazing that that all of the rest of the adult children don't simply let go of their need for approval. Yet they all cling to their bond of birth and replay old feuds and their need for their parent's approval.

There is no doubt that The Exact Nature of Our Wrongs is a beautifully written novel, both lyrical and descriptive. Peery's adept descriptions and details about the setting and her character's fears and foibles will resonate with many people who have experienced complex family dramas of their own. The characters are finely drawn and feel like real individuals. The Campbell's come to life as a real family comprised of individuals who are hurting, each in their own way. The story itself is slow moving as it recounts these latter years in the life of the senior Campbells and their children visiting them. Hattie is the heart of the story, along with her favorite Billy, while everyone else vies for her love.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of St. Martin's Press.

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