01 June 2012

Imprint Friday: We Only Know So Much by Elizabeth Crane

Welcome to Imprint Friday and today's featured imprint: Harper Perennial. Stop by each week to be introduced to a must-read title from one of my favorite imprints. I know you'll be adding many of these books to your wish list.

Meet the ironically named Copeland family: four generations under one roof, and no one is exactly coping. Elizabeth Crane's first novel (after three short-story collections), We Only Know So Much, takes us into the hearts and minds of one crazy family.

Here's the summary:

Jean Copeland, an emotionally withdrawn wife and mother of two, has taken a secret lover—only to lose him in a moment of tragedy that leaves her reeling. Her husband, Gordon, is oblivious, distracted by the fear that he's losing his most prized asset: his memory. Daughter, Priscilla (a pill since birth—don't get us started), is talking about clothes, or TV, or whatever, and hatching a plan to extend her maddening reach to all of America. Nine-year-old Otis is torn between his two greatest loves: crossword puzzles and his new girlfriend.

At the back of the house, grandfather Theodore is in the early throes of Parkinson's disease. (And he's fine with it—as long as they continue to let him walk the damn dog alone.) And Vivian, the family's ninety-eight-year-old matriarch, is a razor-sharp grande dame who suffers no fools . . . and still harbors secret dreams of her own.

With empathy, humor, and an unforgettable voice, Elizabeth Crane reveals what one family finds when everyone goes looking for meaning in all the wrong places.
I had so much fun with Crane's delightful novel, I read it in one sitting. From the start, I was taken in by the conversational tone of the unnamed narrator:
First of all, Priscilla is a bitch. Or at least a brat. An extreme brat. Look, we're just reporting what we've heard. Maybe bitch is too harsh. Let's say it this way: her attitude is often poor. The reasons are currently unclear. For one thing, her parents might have done better to rethink her name. Right? (p. 1)
As we meet each character, we realize that everyone, from young Otis to old Vivian, is harboring a secret fear or wish. Some of the characters keep it to themselves, like Gordon, who takes online memory quizzes to assess the seriousness of his forgetting an old lover. Others, like Jean, overshare. Unfortunately, she spills her guts to Otis, who now has some strange ideas about love.

Although each family member's story is sadly funny (funnily sad?), it's Priscilla whom I ended up cheering for the most. The poor girl is so shallow and self-absorbed that when asked to describe herself she can think of only cute and awesome. When she starts to obsess on finding a "proudest accomplishment" or "most exciting moment" in her life, I began to see the possibility for change.

Pick up Elizabeth Crane's We Only Know So Much and step inside the Copeland's world. Surely there will be one family member you'll root for: the grieving Jean, the lovesick Otis, or maybe the outgoing Vivian. Who, if any of them, will get a clue?

To learn more about Elizabeth Crane, visit her website, follow her on Twitter, or like her Facebook page.

Harper Perennial is a featured imprint on Beth Fish Reads. For information about the imprint, please read Erica Barmash's welcome note posted here on June 18, 2010. I encourage you to add your reviews of Harper Perennial books to the review link-up page; it's a great way to discover Good Books for Cool People. And don't miss the The Olive Reader, the Harper Perennial blog.

We Only Know So Much at an Indie
We Only Know So Much at Powell's
We Only Know So Much at Book Depository
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Published by Harper Perennial, June 12, 2012
ISBN-13: 9780062099471


Daryl 6/1/12, 7:44 AM  

a charming summer read is how this one sounds .. just right for a long plane ride

bermudaonion 6/1/12, 9:34 AM  

That does sound like a hoot! I love the tone of the quote you selected.

Unknown 6/1/12, 9:02 PM  

I love a good funny family read. Thanks so much.

Beth Hoffman 6/1/12, 9:12 PM  

You had me at "crazy family" ... LOL.

I must get my hands on this book!

Julie P. 6/2/12, 7:07 PM  

I love, love, love books about dysfunctional families.

BookGeek 6/6/12, 9:05 AM  

The glimpse in the book is great! The voice...you're right, it leaps off the page. I've been looking for a new book to kick off summer and this sounds just right.

Buried In Print 9/7/12, 11:46 AM  

I can completely see how you could devour this one in a single sitting; my experience of reading it was very different, but it still demonstrates just how gripping the style is, because I read it in an incredibly busy month, a month in which I read almost nothing else, but it didn't matter how much time passed between reading sessions for me, I just fell right back into the story immediately and wholly. (And Priscilla? I laughed and laughed. And then I just smiled.)

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