Families and Other Nonreturnable Gifts
~ Claire LaZebnik
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: 5 Spot (September 1, 2011)
Despite her name, Keats Sedlak is the sanest person in her large, nutty family of brilliant eccentrics. Her parents, both brainy academics, are barely capable of looking after themselves, let alone anyone else, and her two uber-intelligent siblings live on their own planets. At least she can count on one person in her life, her devoted boyfriend Tom. Down-to-earth and loving, he's the one thing that's kept Keats grounded for the last decade. But when Keats's mother makes a surprise announcement, the entire family is sent into a tailspin. For the first time, Keats can't pick up the pieces by herself. Now she must re-evaluate everything she's ever assumed about herself and her family - and make the biggest decision of her life.
Keats Sedlak is living a content, comfortable life. She is living in an apartment with her boyfriend of ten years and has a not so challenging job as an office manager. However, she is the oddball in her family, the normal one to say the least. Her brother, Milton, hasn't left their mother's house for two years. Her sister, Hopkins, is a genius, and she is currently saving lives as a neurologist. Her father, also a genius, is a published author and a professor at Harvard. Lastly, her mother drives her insane for many reasons, one of those is for always implying that Keats's boyfriend, Tom, isn't good enough or smart enough for her. In fact, her whole family seems to think that about Tom. They also don't like her job; none of them understand why she is working there and not getting a higher education.
While her family definitely drives her nuts, she is there for them when she is needed, like for going through items in the house she grew up in because her mother wants to sell it. In spending more time with her family, she is also spending more time with her dad's personal assistant, Jacob. Keats starts to question certain aspects in her life and witnesses all the changes taking place around her. She starts to see that change isn't always a bad thing.
This was a very good read, but it made me a little depressed at the same time. Let me try to explain why without giving too much away. Keats’s parents, who have been separated for years, are finally going through a divorce, a family member suffers a medical emergency, and I think the fact that Keats has to constantly defend her boyfriend and her happiness made it a little sad for me.
Keats is a great protagonist though. Although her family is constantly on her case and questioning her happiness, Keats stands up against it and defends herself. She also clearly loves them and lends them a hand, or even a stubborn threat, to help them out. I definitely felt for Keats when she was dealing with her family, but it wasn’t always depressing. When she did interact with them there was usually some humor to be found in the struggle too. Here is Keats describing time with her dad:
“When he finally moves on from the topic of Keats’s Wasted Life, it’s to give me a lecture about the heart, both as muscle and as a literary trope. It’s clearly something he’s put a lot of thought into, but none of his observations seem all that original to me, and after a while, I can’t restrain a yawn, which sends him into a long rant about the deterioration of the American attention span—which makes me so bored I could scream, which I guess proves his point.” (p. 137)
While I wouldn’t say that this is the best book I’ve ever read, it was an enjoyable read with a melancholy sort of feel.
Book provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.