Book Review: Three Novels

There’s this sort of subset of literary fiction I like to call “The Fucked Up Family Novel”.

You know what I’m talking about.

These are novels that were fucked up family dynamics are the centerpiece. The reasons for and results of those dynamics drives the narration. I’m not talking about the sort of novel that has one character with issues, but the family itself is functional. I’m talking about the sort where the whole family in general is fucked and their lives together are essentially fucked as well.

These sort of novels are my wheelhouse. I am SO down with these. I loved “The Virgin Suicides” and Zoe Heller’s “The Believers”. I loved Meg Mitchell Moore’s “The Admissions.” I live for these stories most likely because I have my own fucked up family and like to feel as if I’m not alone in having messy familial relationships. It feels nice to feel as if you can commiserate with your book, you know?Recently though, I’ve read a few of these sorts of books and I wasn’t feeling the love for them they way I’d hoped I would.

James Bailey’s “Sorry I Wasn’t What You Needed” was the first in a list of Fucked Up


Family Novels to disappoint me this summer. The premise sounded spectacular: CJ, who lives far from his family, gets a what seems to be a random, late night phone call

from his dad. Later he finds out that his father commits suicide. Now he has to return home and face the family he’s kept his distance from for the better part of 10 years.

How could that not be amazing? It wasn’t. I found the prose to be juvenile – almost like a YA novel and the characters were ridiculous. Their actions were nonsensical

and they were stupid. I can take a lot of things, but not idiotic characters.  I didn’t see any real humanity in them – they sort of felt like caricatures of screwed up people rather than actual damaged people. I felt there was no subtly; no nuance. Because of that, I found it boring. Continue reading