02 November 2009

Review: A Friend of the Family by Lauren Grodstein

Pete and Elaine Dizinoff had the perfect life: a big house in an upscale New Jersey suburb, money, and a group of long-time similar-minded friends. Pete was a successful and respected internist, he and Elaine, after years of heart-breaking miscarriages, were blessed with a beautiful, healthy son. They felt their lives were complete.

The Dizinoffs' best friends from college, the Sterns, lived nearby, and the couples vacationed together and raised their children together. The two families gathered for celebrations and to help each other through hardships. Nothing, it seemed, could tear them apart.

The semester Alec Dizinoff dropped out of Hampshire College to live above his parents' garage, that perfect life and perfect friendship began to crumble. When Pete thought his only child needed his protection, he could concentrate on nothing else. In his desperation, he made two life-altering decisions: one perhaps an honest mistake, but what about the other?

The overriding theme in A Friend of the Family is trust within relationships. The story of the Dizinoffs and Sterns centers on how much parents can and should trust their children to find their own lives, to choose their own friends and lovers, to tell the truth, and to do what's right. If one parent puts too much faith in a child who could use more guidance, is he really any different from the parent who meddles in the life of a kid who will probably be just fine?

On other levels, Lauren Grodstein examines the dynamics of lifelong friendship and of trust within a marriage. Such relationships are built on shared thoughts, revealed insecurities, and whispered secrets. When you trust others with such information, you give them great power over you. Pete Dizinoff learns just how far the bonds of trust between friends, spouses, children, and patients can be stretched before they begin to snap.

A Friend of the Family is not a happy novel with easy answers and a clean ending. The characters are multidimensional, and the reader's sympathies change as the book progresses. Grodstein pushes you to question the limits of the trust and faith you have put in your family, your friends, and even your doctors. It's a novel that will make you think.

A Friend of the Family at Powell's
A Friend of the Family at Amazon
These 3 links lead to affiliate programs.

Published by Algonquin, November 2009
ISBN-13: 9781565129160
Challenges: 100+
YTD: 80
Source: Review copy (see review policy)
Rating: B+

16 comments:

Just Mom 11/2/09, 8:28 AM  

That sounds really good, Beth! I love books that get a little messy.

Melanie 11/2/09, 8:55 AM  

This sounds like a really good to me, too! It's like a never ending question for parents, trying to figure out the right distance to keep from their children.

Jenn's Bookshelves 11/2/09, 9:01 AM  

This book is finding its way to the top of my review pile. I'm really looking forward to reading it.

Vasilly 11/2/09, 10:01 AM  

This sounds like a great book. I'm definitely adding it to my TBR pile. You wrote a great review.

bermudaonion 11/2/09, 11:03 AM  

This sounds like something I would love - a novel that makes you think and has great characters.

Jen - devourer of books 11/2/09, 11:52 AM  

I'm definitely intrigued, I hope to get to this soon!

Julie P. 11/2/09, 1:36 PM  

I love books that make me think. It would probably be a good discussion book too!

Margot at Joyfully Retired 11/2/09, 3:23 PM  

I like what you said about the novel not having easy answers and a clear ending. That describes most family life, in my experience. Sounds like this book could raise some good discussion ideas.

farmlanebooks 11/2/09, 3:38 PM  

I agree with everyone else - this does sound great! I haven't heard of it before, but I've added it to the wishlist now - thanks!

Sandy Nawrot 11/2/09, 4:34 PM  

In the right mood, I love books that force you down uncomfortable paths and make you think. I also don't need clean endings. I'm adding it to the list!

Nely 11/2/09, 4:35 PM  

I recently met Lauren and she was just the sweetest thing. I wanted to keep her. I got her to sign my book and take some pictures with me and she was all smiles. I just haven't gotten around to reading her book yet, but your review definitely bumped it up.

♥Nely

Jenners 11/2/09, 8:31 PM  

oooooohhhh....this sounds good. I'm adding it to my wish list now!

Veens 11/3/09, 5:39 AM  

Wow.. this is one theme.. i Like reading about!

stacybuckeye 11/4/09, 1:25 PM  

Wow. I am going to have to get this one soon. I love messy :)Great review.

S. Krishna 11/10/09, 9:44 AM  

This sounds really interesting. Thanks for the review!

Jill 11/16/09, 9:58 PM  

Great review! I just finished this, and I agree with you that it's one that really makes you think...

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