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Family History

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

A MOVING, BEAUTIFULLY CRAFTED STORY

They were young when they met in a New York City café. Rachel is an aspiring art restorer, in the middle of graduate studies at New York University. Ned Jensen is an artist who dreams of a grand showing. This chance meeting is to unalterably change their lives. R...
They were young when they met in a New York City café. Rachel is an aspiring art restorer, in the middle of graduate studies at New York University. Ned Jensen is an artist who dreams of a grand showing. This chance meeting is to unalterably change their lives. Rachel says there was nothing dramatic about that moment. It was simply that 'There was something between us. There you are. The thought came to me, bizarre and unbidden. I simply knew I had just met the man I was going to spend my life with.' Career plans are set aside when Rachel finds herself pregnant, and the couple decide to marry. Such a thought is unconscionable to Rachel's mother. After all, 'Nice Jewish girls weren't supposed to marry artists. My choices were doctor, lawyer, banker.' This is not the first rift between mother and daughter. Mother is widowed, selfish, a product of Bergdorf Goodman and Elizabeth Arden. Rachel tends toward the bohemian and, as an only child, relishes the thought of becoming part of a larger family, Ned's family. Following their wedding the pair settle in Ned's hometown of Hawthorne, Massachusetts, where his parents, successful realtors, have made it possible for them to buy a comfortable older home. With a barn behind the house in which he can paint, Ned signs on as an instructor at Hawthorne Academy. And then Kate is born. She is a golden child. She flourishes and grows - a joy to all. She earns high grades in her school subjects and is elected captain of athletic teams. They are a happy family and Ned is a popular teacher, dreams of becoming an artist seemingly forgotten. His early ambition is not mentioned any more 'It had faded away slowly, the way a painting itself fades when left too long in the sun. One day the image of Ned-the-artist was impossible to make out, and in his place was a high school teacher.' At the age of 13 Kate goes to summer camp; she is dreadfully missed by her parents. But when she returns from camp wearing a belly ring and a sullen expression, both Rachel and Ned sense something is very much amiss and they are right. Instead of their sunny, easy-going daughter they are now living with a withdrawn, somewhat volatile young lady. When Rachel finds herself pregnant again at 39, Kate is at first solicitous. Yet Joshua's birth does not have the hoped for cohesive effect on their family life. On the contrary, Kate's dark moods increase and she becomes more rebellious. When she accidentally drops Joshua severely injuring him, she seems to lose complete control, eventually falsely accusing her father of abuse. There seems to be no alternative but to institutionalize her for treatment. Ned, of course, loses his job at the Academy. Unable to bear the burden of Kate's behavior and false accusations he leaves Rachel, and takes a job selling real estate for his parents. The deterioration of the Jensen family is related in flashback episodes; it is spare, compelling, and heartbreakingly authentic. When we first meet Rachel she is alone in the house, in bed, watching home videos of Kate's young life, unsuccessfully trying to determine what went wrong - when and where the break down of her family began. There are no answers for her, as there are no pat answers for readers. Dani Shapiro has fashioned a deeply moving, beautifully crafted story. Once begun it is impossible to put down.

posted by Anonymous on April 17, 2003

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Most Helpful Critical Review

1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

A good read but it's slow moving & lets you down

This book has so much potential. The characters are beautifully drawn and the plot is substantial. Howvere, the author leaves you with so many loose ends and unresolved conflicts that you are disappointed at the end. The relationship between Rachel and her mother is c...
This book has so much potential. The characters are beautifully drawn and the plot is substantial. Howvere, the author leaves you with so many loose ends and unresolved conflicts that you are disappointed at the end. The relationship between Rachel and her mother is complex and painful, yet it never develops and there are many unanswered questions. After much angst she just about vanishes from the story line. Why? The reader is also left bereft at the end. The conclusion comes as a surprise given all the effort the author put into the build-up.

posted by Anonymous on May 27, 2003

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 27, 2003

    A good read but it's slow moving & lets you down

    This book has so much potential. The characters are beautifully drawn and the plot is substantial. Howvere, the author leaves you with so many loose ends and unresolved conflicts that you are disappointed at the end. The relationship between Rachel and her mother is complex and painful, yet it never develops and there are many unanswered questions. After much angst she just about vanishes from the story line. Why? The reader is also left bereft at the end. The conclusion comes as a surprise given all the effort the author put into the build-up.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 4, 2010

    good read but dont recommend

    it was written well i liked how it went from past to present and back again but it has no real ending. the daughter does make a break though but you are left wanting more. glad only paid 2 bucks for it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 8, 2006

    Starts strong but leaves you wanting...

    This book doesn't reveal its secrets easily but uncovers pieces of a troublesome family history slowly. The story highlights the fact that all families have certain problems that we try to shield ourselves from in order to keep ourselves together, for better or worse. However, the ending was a letdown for me because nothing really 'happens' at the end. I wanted more payoff--but as in real life, sometimes the payoff is just that the pages keep turning.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 16, 2003

    good writing; limited character development

    Rachel is self-involved,and shoresighted, doesn't see complexity in lives of others. the mother is a silly caricature.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 11, 2003

    Honest and heart renching

    Though my expectations for this book were high I felt slighty let down by it. Yes it caught your attention and it dealt with how you can have everything one moment and the next nothing. But it took seemly forever to make that point. Dani Sharpio kept you interested by not telling much of anything. Good read but there are better books about the same thing.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 3, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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