Tuesday, January 28, 2020

The Misfortunes of Family

The Misfortunes of Family by Meg Little Reilly
MIRA Books: 2/4/20
eBook review copy; 352 pages
ISBN-13: 9780778369424

The Misfortunes of Family by Meg Little Reilly is a recommended family drama.

The Bright family is a political family. Newly retired senator John Bright and his wife Patty have four sons: JJ (John Junior), Spencer, Charlie, and Phillip. Every summer they have the sons and their partners for a family reunion at their lake house in the Berkshire Mountains of western Massachusetts. It is a stressful time for "the extras," as JJ's wife Mary-Beth and Spencer's husband Ian call themselves. The older three Bright boys are all dominated by their father and their mother still mothers them throughout the reunion. The youngest son, Phillip, who has always been an outlier in the family, makes an announcement that further sets him apart.

This summer is different and ripe for more stress for the extras than usual for two reasons. First the reunion is three weeks long instead of the usual one. Secondly, this summer a documentary filmmaker will be filming the entire Bright family the whole time. It is a situation ripe for tension and highly guarded secrets are certainly going to be exposed. Family reunions are usually fraught with underlying tension. How many families can withstand potentially having all their secrets uncovered?

The narrative unfolds through the point-of-view of the extras and Farah, the filmmaker, as they observe the sometimes larger-than-life Brights. The three weeks is full of drama, unbelievable stress, emotional releases, some self-realization, and, eventually, several shocking secrets are disclosed. The plot moves along quickly, but the connection with the characters becomes more distant with each new chapter. Ian was the most appealing character, partially because he was the only character who was content with his life and didn't come to the reunion with some hidden need or agenda.

The writing is good, but I pretty much knew or guessed most of the secrets that were going to be outed so I was anticipating when my predictions would be revealed in the plot. That meant that my interest in the novel needed to be focused on the various characters and their personal development. While character development does happen, most of it felt truncated, which left me pining for the richness and depth that great character development and personal growth can provide to a plot that is otherwise rather predictable. I would look for another Meg Little Reilly because this novel shows promise for her future works. 

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of MIRA Books.

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