Monday, November 16, 2009

Review: A Friend of the Family by Lauren Grodstein

"One day, God willing, my son will understand. He'll have children of his own and then he'll understand. There's nothing a father won't do for his children."

Pete and Elaine Dizinoff have been friends with Joe and Iris Stern since college, living near each other in suburban New Jersey, vacationing together, and raising each other's children as their own. That is, until the Sterns' oldest child, Laura, commits a horrific act as a teenager that will haunt Pete for years.

As the families struggle to move forward in the aftermath, Pete focuses his energy on his only child, Alec, trying to ensure his future as a successful, responsible adult, despite twists and turns along the way.

When Laura comes back after a decade-long absence, she sets her sights on Alec, ten years her junior, who has returned home after dropping out of college. Pete, still intent on keeping Alec on course, sees the life he imagined for his son slipping out of his grasp as the relationship between the two moves forward.

Early on, the author presents questions that propel the reader to the novel's dramatic end for the answers. Why is Pete now living in the studio above his basement, estranged from his family? Why is he potentially being sued for medical malpractice? It's these two critical issues that provide the novel's momentum.

The novel is told exclusively from Pete's point of view, so we don't get the other characters' perspectives on all the events, but the singular focus is effective at driving home Pete's unwavering love for Alec, even as his efforts are resisted.

The book jumps wildly around in time to cover the history leading up to the present circumstances, which can be a bit confusing. Ultimately, though, Grodstein does an impressive job at getting inside the head, and heart, of a father who just wants the very best for his child at any cost.

7 comments:

bermudaonion said...

I'm intrigued by your review. I'm really curious about what Laura has done.

Anna said...

Thanks for letting me know about this book. I'm with Kathy...I want to know what she did!

--Anna
Diary of an Eccentric

Tina's Blog said...

I just ordered this for myself yesterday after reading the first chapter on Amazon. Thanks for the review.

Mishel said...

I really love the review. I'll have to check this one out.

Kristen said...

I have this one sitting here to review and haven't tackled it yet because I am still trying to sort out how to write about it without giving anything away and also just how I feel about it.

Beth F said...

I was surprised at how much this book made me think.l

Marie said...

thanks for reviewing this; i have it in my tbr pile & appreciate your thoughts. sounds like an intriguing book!