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Family Family by Laurie Frankel
Contemporary fiction

Family Family

by Laurie Frankel

Excellent choice

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Quick take

In this warm, wise novel about the many forms family takes, an adoptive mom and rising Hollywood star speaks her truth.

Good to know

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_400

    400+ pages

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_FamilyDrama

    Family drama

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_NonLinear

    Nonlinear timeline

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_MamaDrama

    Mama drama

Synopsis

India Allwood grew up wanting to be an actor. Armed with a stack of index cards (for research/line memorization/makeshift confetti), she goes from awkward sixteen-year-old to Broadway ingénue to TV superhero.

Her new movie is a prestige picture about adoption, but its spin is the same old tired story of tragedy. India is an adoptive mom in real life though. She wants everyone to know there’s more to her family than pain and regret. So she does something you should never do—she tells a journalist the truth: it’s a bad movie.

Soon she’s at the center of a media storm, battling accusations from the press and the paparazzi, from protesters on the right and advocates on the left. Her twin ten-year-olds know they need help—and who better to call than family? But that’s where it gets really messy because India’s not just an adoptive mother…

The one thing she knows for sure is that what makes a family isn’t blood. And it isn’t love. No matter how they’re formed, the truth about family is this: it’s complicated.

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Content warning

This book contains mentions of child abuse.

Free sample

Get an early look from the first pages of Family Family.
Family Family

MONDAY

It all started the way it all started. There was a tiny matter. And then it exploded.

Fig had gotten an A on her Big Bang diorama, so even though her fifth-grade science unit had been vague on a lot of details, she knew enough to know they were in really deep trouble.

Right before what happened happened, back when they were a hot, tiny ball of dense singularity, Fig’s family was just a family. Maybe people would guess that Fig and Jack left school in a limousine to eat lunch at a fancy restaurant every day and rode horses in their backyard and lived in a giant mansion, but really they went to school in a normal car and ate lunch in the cafeteria and lived in a regular-sized house.

Fig had never ridden a horse.

Fig’s mother was famous, but she wasn’t horses-in-your-backyard famous. And Fig and Jack didn’t go to summer camp. Fig’s therapist made her keep a list of things that scared her, and it included roasting marshmallows over a campfire, singing songs around a campfire, and scooting close to a campfire to avoid mosquitoes. Since most camp activities seemed to involve fire, Fig had nowhere to learn to ride a horse.

It was strange, given what had happened to them and given that they were twins, that Jack didn’t mind fire. He also didn’t mind other things people might not like about camp, like never taking a shower and whatever bug juice was. But Fig knew Jack wasn’t sad about not going to camp and staying home with her instead. She and her brother didn’t always like each other, but they did always like to be together rather than apart.

Being apart was on both of their lists of scary things.

Scientists—or at least Fig’s science teacher—did not know what caused the Big Bang, but they did know that billions of trillions of unlikely factors had to be exactly right for it to occur. If it had been fall or winter or spring, Fig and Jack would probably have been at school. If Fig hadn’t been afraid of fire, they would probably have been at camp. If she didn’t have to share a phone with her brother or even if it had been her turn or especially if Fig had been a different kind of ten-year-old, she might not have been reading the newspaper that morning. But none of those ifs came true. So conditions were unlikely, but unfortunately perfect, for their entire lives to explode.

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Why I love it

Family is…messy. As a child, my mother would tell me time and again: no matter how insane you think your family is, everyone else’s is equally (if not more) messed up. While she may have had a conflict of interest in that conversation, I’m inclined to believe her. Reading Family Family reminded me of these conversations with my mother: cathartic, honest, and just plain funny.

Actress India Allwood is more than the protagonist of this novel—even in her own universe, she’s a star across theater, film, and television. Her ascent to fame, though, is no walk in the park. When promoting her latest movie—one that tells an adoption story that ends in pain—catastrophe strikes. Tired of hearing the same tragic story time and time again as an adoptive mother herself, India publicly denounces the film. In her children’s attempt to help clean up the ensuing media chaos, the whole family is forced to reckon with India’s past. Through the events that follow, India and her children are reminded that family isn’t blood. Family is love, hard work, and most of all: complicated.

Even through its mess, India’s story is a love letter to family. Laurie Frankel is a master at sharp dialogue and her writing is compulsively readable—she takes the most intense moments of life and injects them with both hilarity and heart. A thought-provoking and uplifting read, Family Family is a book that you won’t be able to put down.

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