Monday, February 14, 2022


Chorus by Rebecca Kauffman
3/1/22; 272 pages

Chorus by Rebecca Kauffman is a very highly recommended collection of stories that create a portrait of the Shaw family. This will be one of the best literary fiction novels of the year.

The nonsequential chapters, each prefaced by the year the story occurred (1903-1959), follow Jim and Marie Shaw and their seven children, Wendy, Sam, Jack, Maeve, Lane, Henry, and Bette. The chapters cover the individual family members during notable moments in each of their lives and the memories each sibling has of the events. These events include their mother's death in 1933 when they were all children, a teenage pregnancy, the Great Depression, marriage, divorce, deaths of spouses, life choices, addictions, enlistment in the Second World War, their own lives as parents. All of the short chapters work together to create a beautiful, haunting, and profound portrait of a complicated family. 

It's difficult to capture the many reasons Chorus is such an extraordinarily exquisite novel. It is a novel composed of stories through the point-of-view of various family members. Anyone from a large family can understand how events are always viewed differently by each family member as well as the many secrets and things that are left unsaid by parents and siblings. There is often a complicated relationship between siblings. Adding to that is the untimely death of their mother, who was an invalid/inaccessible, and how each child viewed this. "And he knew that this beautiful world had a forked tongue. And he knew that everything he thought and felt and feared was real."

The writing is admirable, brilliant, and poetic. Each story is impeccably executed and presented. Ultimately the stories all create a portrait of each family members as realistic, complex characters. This is truly a superbly executed saga about the heart of a family and their complicated relationships with each other. It's difficult to fully express how much I loved this novel, but it will be on my list of top books of 2022.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Penguin Random House.

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