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  • Writer's pictureThe Bossy Bookworm

Review of Family Family by Laurie Frankel

​Frankel's story of a nontraditional, loving, zany family flips traditional views of unplanned, young pregnancy through the view of a main protagonist who refuses to fear, feel shame, or to regret the sometimes complicated occurrences in her life.

“Not all stories of adoption are stories of pain and regret. Not even most of them. Why don’t we ever get that movie?”

India Allwood always knew she wanted to act. Each decision she made as a young person was done toward trying to shape her future as an actor.

Now a grown-up, successful actor, she's supposed to be doing the publicity for her new movie, which exploits the heartbreak of giving a baby up for adoption. India generally keeps her strong opinions about the world to herself (or shares them with her two kids or trusted agent), but she honestly thinks the movie is no good--and that adoption is often not a tragic story. She is, herself, an adoptive mother who believes in the process--and she has a complicated past that adds layers to her feelings about the matter.

When she shares her frank thoughts about the complex issues surrounding unplanned pregnancy, a storm of publicity explodes around her. Her precocious ten-year-old kids secretly reach out to family for help--but even India doesn't realize the ripple effect of the contact her beloved children are making.

This is your wide, strange, remarkable family in the world, she said. These are your ancestors, progenitors, and forebears. This is your story.

I was frequently distracted, as I didn't feel like Jack and Fig's age of ten really fit. Kids are more sage in some ways and more youthful in others. But the twins generally felt older, wiser, and more capable of complex thought and carrying out elaborate plans (and holding secrets) than most ten-year-olds I know. They were able to infer a great deal about the world and how it works--far more than I would have anticipated, even considering their difficult beginnings and the emotional maturity demanded of them as a result.

Yet the story includes what felt like too-frequent "cute" misnomers (for example, when Jack is told about forebears, he exclaims nonsensically, "I want four bears!"; when Fig is told they must travel incognito, she conveniently doesn't use context clues, instead replying, "But we don't have a cognito.") Kids say the darnedest and adorable things, but these instances pulled me out of the story each time they occurred.

The character of India turns rigid, conservative views on unplanned pregnancy, young pregnancy, and adoption on their heads. While I did find myself cringing and wishing she followed through on the birth control that would ensure her freedom from difficult choices resulting from a surprise pregnancy, India refuses to feel regret, shame, or fear. I had to check my assumptions repeatedly as I entered into her mindset around her version of personal choice and freedom.

Family Family offers so much varied love and acceptance, discovery, and renewed connection. I also loved the peek at a celebrity's home life.

You can see the rough sketches of where the novel is going, but the extended, loving, odd, sometimes zany family was unexpected in its makeup and irresistible in its existence within this charming story from Frankel.

When are They going to make this into a television series, hmmm?

Do you have any Bossy thoughts about this book?

Laurie Frankel is also the author of This Is How It Always Is, One Two Three, The Atlas of Love, and Goodbye for Now.


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