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Family Family by Laurie Frankel

Contemporary fiction

Family Family

by Laurie Frankel

Excellent choice

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, 400

    400+ pages

  • Illustrated icon, Family_Drama

    Family drama

  • Illustrated icon, Nonlinear_Timeline

    Nonlinear timeline

  • Illustrated icon, Mama_Drama

    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.

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.

Member ratings (920)

  • Ashley R.

    FPO, AP

    Laurie Frankel has an excellent way of developing characters and their stories. Loved this one! I’m also an adoptive mom and think all the time about how this representation matters for my kids ❤️

  • Jennifer C.

    Manistee, MI

    What a ride! A few times I rolled my eyes “really, this is happening now too”, but I ended up really enjoying the whole story. I loved the characters and its lesson. Beautiful story about Family.

  • Cat D.

    Alexandria, VA

    I love how Laurie Frankel’s books make me really think about what family means. Her family stories are complex yet beautiful. This book was no different and gave a different perspective on adoption.

  • David T.

    Ephrata, PA

    There is not one definition of family. Go on this journey as the main character tells of her journey placing two children up for adoption and the dominos that fell for all involved through the years.

  • Gay J.

    Evansville, IN

    This book provides a fresh look at what it means to be a family as well as shares different and thoughtful perspectives regarding adoption. Some laughs, some tears and some twists and turns. Loved it!

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Contemporary fiction
View all
The Last Love Note
Anita de Monte Laughs Last
Honey
The Leftover Woman
Interesting Facts about Space
Bye, Baby
Swan Song
The Connellys of County Down
Joe Nuthin’s Guide to Life
Jackpot Summer
Adelaide
The Collected Regrets of Clover
Again and Again
Evil Eye
Black Cake
Maame
Romantic Comedy
Someone Else’s Shoes
Once There Were Wolves
We Are the Brennans
The Bad Muslim Discount
What Comes After
Olga Dies Dreaming
Last Summer at the Golden Hotel
Monster in the Middle
My Dark Vanessa
Nine Perfect Strangers
The Star-Crossed Sisters of Tuscany
The Girl with Stars in Her Eyes
Honey Girl
In Every Mirror She's Black
Yinka, Where Is Your Huzband?
Sankofa
The Unsinkable Greta James
The Love of My Life
The Five-Star Weekend
The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto
The Wishing Game
Behold the Dreamers
The Mothers
All the Ugly and Wonderful Things
Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk
Little Fires Everywhere
The Music Shop
Queenie
Where’d You Go, Bernadette
The Reckless Oath We Made
Dear Edward
When We Were Vikings
The Girl with the Louding Voice
Anxious People
A Good Neighborhood
Big Summer
All Adults Here
Happy & You Know It
Friends and Strangers
The Comeback
True Story
The Last Story of Mina Lee
Troubles in Paradise
White Ivy
This Close to Okay
The Chicken Sisters
The Prophets
The Kindest Lie
In a Book Club Far Away
The Other Black Girl
Apples Never Fall
A Quiet Life
We Are the Light
The Most Likely Club
The Fortunes of Jaded Women
When We Were Bright and Beautiful
The Hotel Nantucket