Trapped in the Nest: 10 Tales of Family Dysfunction

Shelf Renewal

The Nest by Cynthia D'Aprix SweeneyOne of this spring’s most buzzed about books is Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney’s The Nest. The four adult Plumb siblings are supposed to get their inheritance when the youngest one turns 40. Plans go awry when their mother uses it to bail their ne’er-do-well brother Leo out of another inebriated jam. Readers who relish reading about other families’ foibles will enjoy these clever takes on domestic disharmony.

Between Georgia by Joshilyn Jackson

Between, Georgia, by Joshilyn Jackson

Nonny has not one but two dysfunctional families, and now she’s stuck in a family feud that began the night she was born. Her biological family, the Crabtrees, are the poor lawless, outcasts of their rural Georgia town; her adopted family, the Fretts, are the upper-crust, can-do-no-wrong type. Her adopted mother is blind and deaf, her rocker husband is always half out the door, and her biological grandmother sets her Dobermans on anyone she doesn’t like.

The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen

The Corrections, by Jonathan Franzen

Enid Lambert is desperate for one last perfect Christmas before her husband Alfred’s Parkinson’s-induced dementia turns his family into nothing more than an unreliable memory. The three Lambert children are far from perfect, of course, and they return to St. Louis with emotional baggage from their adult lives that battles for attention along with the unpacked wrongs from their childhood.

The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson

The Family Fang, by Kevin Wilson

Unwitting participants in their parents’ performance art as children, adult siblings Buster and Annie Fang are forced to return home just as their mother and father are planning their grand finale.

The Family Man by Elinor Lipman

The Family Manby Elinor Lipman

Henry Archer never imagined that a condolence call to his ex-wife would inspire a need to reconnect with his now-grown stepdaughter in an effort to help her sort out her increasingly chaotic life.

In Her Shoes by Jennifer Weiner

In Her Shoes, by Jennifer Weiner

When Maggie Feller gets evicted, her responsible older sister Rose takes her in. It’s not long before their lifetime pattern of sibling rivalry rears its ugly head and they need their estranged grandmother to send them to their corners to cool off.

Mermaids in the Basement by Michael Lee West

Mermaids in the Basement, by Michael Lee West

Mourning the death of her mother, Renata escapes to her grandmother’s cottage, but instead of finding rest and relaxation, she finds more stress, thanks to her family. Eventually, she discovers that her parents led secret lives to which she was never privy: Grandmother Honora and pals have decided it’s time to let all the skeletons out of the family closets.

The Spellman Files by Lisa Lutz

The Spellman Files, by Lisa Lutz

It’s hard to get any privacy when the family business is a detective agency. Isabel Spellman, however, still manages to be surprised when her parents do background checks on her dates and put a tail on her when they think she’s not being forthcoming enough. Her older brother David is just happy that he’s not under the microscope for a change, and younger sister Rae is a sugar-addicted Harriet the Spy.

This Is Where I Leave You_PB.indd

This is Where I Leave You, by Jonathan Tropper

Sitting shiva for their father, the Foxman siblings find that a week is too long to hold in the secrets that are turning their lives upside down.

The Vacationers by Emma Straub

The Vacationers, by Emma Straub

The Post family (and some sundry tag-alongs) think a two-week vacation in Mallorca will be relaxing respite from the bustle of life in Manhattan. But, without the cover of bright lights, family secrets are ultimately exposed.

Where'd You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple

Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple

Bernadette “Crazy Like a . . .” Fox is, maybe, not actually crazy. She might just be a little overwhelmed. As her emails and letters show, keeping up with the perfectly well-programmed families in the tech industry’s Seattle-based bubble could drive anybody around the bend.



About the Author:

Karen Kleckner Keefe is the director of the Hinsdale (IL) Public Library, a Booklist reviewer, and one of Library Journal's 2009 "Movers and Shakers." Follow her on Twitter at @KarenKleckner.

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