Monday, July 9, 2012

Book Tour: An American Family


I just read a great book last week.

I’ve been off the review request/blog tour train for quite some time simply because I don’t have the time, but when I was approached with Peter Lefcourt’s An American Family, I hopped back on board because the premise sounded right up my alley.

The narrative is a sprawling one, following the core members of one family from Kennedy’s assassination through 9/11. Nathan, the patriarch of the Perl family, immigrated to New York from Poland in his youth and has kept a long-standing job in the garment district like many other immigrants of Jewish descent. His five children—three from his first wife, two from his second—are growing up through the turmoil of the 60s and 70s. You can see how each of them are shaped by the world around them, each character defined by experiences at a particular age—from the older, ambitious Michael, struggling to make a fortune through old-fashioned business, to the youngest Roberta, a wild child hippie whose youth ran alongside the Woodstock movement.

We also meet the eldest son, Jackie—a lawyer with the wrong connections, often struggling with booze and a gambling problem; Elaine, the eldest daughter—one who followed the “right” path but now feels trapped in her life that has been created according to a traditional way of living; and Steven, the youngest son, who struggles with his sexuality and finding his place in a world that is changing and a family that isn’t.

If just those character descriptions make this sound slightly depressing, let me assure it that it isn’t. So this family has its share of issues; whose doesn’t?

I love the sweeping historical novels as long as the characters help guide you, the reader, along that journey. In this story, the characters are congruous with the history as they try to assimilate, shape, bend, and even break the traditions and standards of the society surrounding them. Because they are each so carefully crafted and we know so much about them, it’s exciting to see where the changing world takes each of them throughout the story’s timespan.

On the surface, this is a really enjoyable story about really complex and really different characters that are tied together by family bond. On a deeper level, though, it’s about how environment, society, and history all shape people differently, and everyone struggles to make sense of it all and create their own sense of place.

In this case, it’s about finding a place as an American family, but the sentiment is really universal.

An American Family is available as a Kindle download on Amazon. Be sure to check out the rest of the blog tour here.

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