Deborah Harkness

Deborah Harkness, author of the All Souls trilogy, reaching its conclusion this week with the release of its third installment, The Book of Life, writes:

”As long as I’ve been a reader I’ve been drawn to stories about families — big, small, broken by death and divorce, nuclear, blended, fun, dysfunctional, constituted by blood, or founded on opportunity and little else. For me, the family is the world in microcosm: intimate, sprawling, challenging, funny, treacherous, heartbreakingly cruel, and breathtakingly generous. Here are some of my favorite books that touch on the important place family (or the lack of it) plays in all of our lives.”


Persuasion
By Jane Austen

”No one grasps the conundrums of family life better than Jane Austen, and no one exposes its quirks with more relish. If you’ve never read Austen start here in the bosom of the delightfully awful Elliot family — bankrupt inside and out, worried about what others think, and willing to sacrifice its daughters to keep the family finances afloat. Will Anne Elliot find a way to escape her family’s clutches, or will she persuaded to resign herself to a life without love or family or her own? Austen fans already know the answer, but they will be the first to dive back into this story.”


A Tale for the Time Being
By Ruth Ozeki

”Nao is a lonely, bullied teenager whose changing family circumstances have necessitated a move from California to Tokyo. As her family crumbles, help — and hope — comes in the form of her centenarian great-grandmother, a Buddhist nun. This marvelous book explores two interwoven stories: Nao’s journey and also the story of a writer, Ruth, who find’s Nao’s Hello Kitty lunchbox washed up on the shore of her Pacific Coast home. Ozeki’s deservedly award-winning tale will stay with you long after the last page is turned.”


The String Diaries
By Stephen Lloyd Jones

”This genre bending book has elements of mystery, thriller, and horror in it and one of the most gripping plot lines you are likely to read this summer. The story opens with a woman driving through the night with her sleeping daughter, her bleeding husband, and a trunk full of diaries tied up with string that contain generations of family secrets. Those diaries contain precious knowledge of how the family has survived for centuries despite the efforts of an evil monster. No one can be trusted here — especially not family. The String Diaries is suspenseful and riveting reading for those who like exploring the darker side of family life.”


The Rook
By Daniel O’Malley

”Of course, you could have no family at all. That’s the situation that faces Myfanwy Thomas, who wakes up one day battered and bloody with no idea of who she is. A letter in her pocket informs her of her name (but not how to pronounce it) and that she works for a secret governmental agency in the United Kingdom whose job it is to protect the nation from supernatural threats. Myfanwy’s co-workers stand in for family, as they do for so many of us today, and they both help and hinder our heroine’s progress to find answers about herself and her past. Quirky, fun, and laugh-out-loud funny, The Rook is one of those books that can help you regain perspective when desperate times lead you to fantasize about leaving your own life and family behind.”