Friday, March 9, 2012

Julie's Review: A Friend Of the Family

Summary: Pete Dizinoff, a skilled and successful New Jersey internist, has a loving and devoted wife, a network of close friends, an impressive house, and, most of all, a son, Alec, now nineteen, on whom he has pinned all his hopes. But Pete hadn’t expected his best friend’s troubled daughter to set her sights on his boy. When Alec falls under her spell, Pete sets out to derail the romance, never foreseeing the devastating consequences. In a riveting story of suburban tragedy, Lauren Grodstein charts a father’s fall from grace as he struggles to save his family, his reputation, and himself. ~amazon.com

Review: So I'll start by saying that overall I found this book to be thought-provoking and extremely well written. It dealt with subject matters that are very relevant and not talked about a lot even in the 21st century. A Friend of the Family isn't an easy novel to read but I think that is the point. Like Pete, you struggle to wrap yourself around the enormity of what goes on around you.

Throughout the book I struggled with Pete as a narrator. It wasn't that I didn't like him or couldn't related to him because as a parent I definitely could. As someone who is more of his son, Alec's generation, his controlling nature aggravated me. I did understand where he was coming from with his outrage towards Alec's seeming entitlement with his parents money. Yet, he adores his son. He wants to give him the world but wants him to appreciate it. I think this is the quandary from most parents of young adult/adult children; how much is too much? When do you stop helping them out? Do you ever stop?

We get to know Pete and Elaine through flashbacks to the early years of their marriage when they were building their lives together in an affluent suburb in New Jersey. Pete builds a successful medical practice and Elaine enjoys teaching at a local college. Their son Alec is the light of their life and a model kid until he starts to get into trouble in his mid teens. He's able to straighten out and subsequently gets into creating art.

There are a few different subplots going on here as well. There is the illness of Roseanne Craig that Dr. Pete is convinced is Depression and doesn't look for any other illnesses. There is also the story of Laura Stern and her adolescent issues. These all intersect in a pivotal scene towards the end of the novel.

I was stunned by the topics that Ms. Grodstein explored in this book. It made me uneasy and cringe at times. While I might not agree with some of the actions that Pete took, I could understand why he did them. Pete himself needs to look to getting some professional help. He lives inside his head and his memories too often; causing him to be a bit maudlin.

I was a bit disappointed in the end because I wanted more. Yet I'm appreciative that Ms. Grodstein didn't feel the need to wrap it up with a nice bow. If you are looking for a book about the psyche of living in suburbia, then A Friend of the Family is for you.


Final Take: 3.75/5

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