Sunday, August 29, 2010

What is Family?

If you asked a five-year-old this question, the child would have no problem answering it - family is the people who live with you at home, the people you're related to, the people who love you. The words would roll glibly off the child's tongue, and the child could return to its' play. As you grow older, however, the answer seems to grow increasingly complex, and the words don't always come as easily as they did when you were five.

"What is family?" seems to be the question asked repeatedly in Jennifer Vanderbes' novel Strangers at the Feast.

Strangers at the Feast is the story of a family gathering on Thanksgiving, 2007. It is told through the voices of many of the family members, as well as a black boy named Kijo is breaking into a house that Thanksgiving. The voices are interlocked, and the perspective changes frequently -- it could be dizzying, and hard to handle, but instead, it works together beautifully.

This book makes you ask yourself: "What is family?" It also causes you to wonder: "What if?" With all of the different opportunities to make choices in your life, how can you be sure you've made the right choice? And does it matter if your choice was the correct one or not?

I opened my blog post with the idea that to a child, the answers to questions that can really make us think as adults sometimes seem ridiculously easy to answer. I find it interesting that the only child's perspectives we receive in the book are flashbacks from characters who are now adult - and there aren't many where the adults are thinking back on a time when they were truly children.

I adored this book. It is written clearly, elegantly. It is interesting, it contains detail, it makes the reader think. Overall, this book is one that I highly recommend to anyone who is looking for good writing, as well as enjoyment.

One of my favorite qualities of this book is that it makes you think about very difficult issues, provides many perspectives on those issues, but doesn't really give a definitive view as to what perspective is the correct one.

Have you read this book? Did you like it? Why or why not?


demery bader-saye said...

Hi! Thanks for following my blog. Yours looks great. It sounds like this book is amazing. I'll be sure to get my hands on it. Have you read Bel Canto? I'm not sure how similar they'd be in style, but there's something so fascinating about the unlikely pairing of people. In Bel Canto it's terrorists and their hostages (who happen to be an opera singer and some diplomats there to hear her sing).

Shelly Quade said...

Hello! Your blog is great - I love the pictures & creativity.

This book was definitely something you want to read. I have not read Bel Canto yet, though I've heard of it. It sounds like something I need to check out. :)

Thank you for commenting; I really appreciate it.