Family = Dysfunction?



I’m just coming off a 4 day Thanksgiving Holiday, split between my husband’s and my family’s, in 2 states, about 2 1/2 hours apart…

Have you seen ‘Home for the Holidays’?  Great movie about a grown-up family getting together for Thanksgiving and trying to cope with all the differences in expectations and reality, and a high level of dysfunction…very entertaining and heartbreaking.  A bit like our recent ‘vacation’…

and obviously there is a similar thread running through not only these 2 examples mentioned above, but also in the book I just completed and cannot recommend highly enough – The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout.

What a superb read!

Elizabeth Strout is incredibly talented.  Her books do not draw you in because they are suspenseful page-turners, but rather they draw you in because of the relatability of her characters, the beautiful storytelling, the reality of her subject matter.  You feel when you immerse yourself in the world she’s conjured.




And in Burgess Boys you feel the melancholy surrounding Bob.  He cannot seem to come out from under the weight of guilt at having accidentally killed his father when he was 4 years old.  You feel how he views himself, as a shell of a man, unworthy of good that befalls him in his life and deserving of and almost seeking the belittling he endures by his brother and twin sister.

You feel the grandiosity that is Jim.  You, too, are torn between thinking he’s a savior of the family and a complete jerk.  And you feel his pain as you witness his descent.  You understand his need to hide behind his obnoxious self-aggrandizing and patronizing.

You feel for Susan.  You feel sorry for her; her lonely existence, how brutal her mother was to her, that her husband left her.  Then you hate her for how she treats Bob.  Then you forgive her for her failings as you realize that she has built a protective fortress around herself and her feelings to keep from getting hurt.

You can feel the difference between Manhattan and Shirley Falls.  The hustle and bustle of the city, the anonymity, the ease with which you can reinvent yourself, the solitude, versus the ties that bind you to your hometown, the familiarity, the fact that you cannot hide from your past or who you are, the comfort that comes from living with that honest version of self.

By the end of the book you are left embracing the probability that abnormal is normal when it comes to family.




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s