From the director of The Spy Who Dumped Me, Susanna Fogel, comes a comedic novel about a fractured family of New England Jews and their discontents, over the course of three decades. Told entirely in letters to a heroine we never meet, we get to know the Fellers through their check-ins with Julie: their thank-you notes, letters of condolence, family gossip, and good old-fashioned familial passive-aggression.
Together, their missives - some sardonic, others absurd, others heartbreaking - weave a tapestry of a very modern family trying (and often failing) to show one another they care.
The titular "Nuclear Family" includes, among many others:
A narcissistic former-child-prodigy father who has taken up haiku writing in his old age and his new wife, a traditional Chinese woman whose attempts to help her stepdaughter find a man include FedExing her silk gowns from Filene's Basement.
Their six-year-old son, Stuart, whose favorite condiment is truffle oil and who wears suits to bed.
Julie's mother, a psychologist who never remarried but may be in love with her arrogant Rabbi and overshares about everything, including the threesome she had with Dutch grad students in 1972.
|Publisher:||Holt, Henry & Company, Inc.|
|Product dimensions:||5.00(w) x 7.00(h) x 0.70(d)|
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This book is laugh-out-loud funny, but the humor is always grounded in the kind of family dynamics we can all relate to. I had read some of the letters contained here in The New Yorker, and loved them there, but when read together as a tragicomic novel, their impact is deeper and funnier for it. You'll tear through it, and then you'll probably want to give it to someone in your own nuclear family.
Nuclear Family: A Tragicomic Novel in Letters by Susanna Fogel is a very highly recommended, hilarious, wonderfully quirky, entertaining debut novel. I loved and adored it! This epistolary novel is a collection of letters/emails written to Julie by her dysfunctional, fractured Jewish family, as well as a few surprising sources that don't normally write letters. We never actually hear directly from Julie, but we meet her through what her family has written to her. The letters begin when Julie is a teen and end when she is in her mid-thirties and publishing a book about her family. Most letters are from her younger sister, Jane, and her mother, but her father, grandmother, uncle, and other family members also write. The letters all have a title/heading. Here are some examples: "Your Sister, Who has Questions about Your Uncle Ken's Lifestyle, Has a Great Idea for His Birthday Gift"; "Your Grandma Rose Is Still Not Feeling This E-mail Thing"; "Your Stepmother Has Some Theories about Why You're Still Single"; "Your Dad, Who Asked Your Last Boyfriend If He Watches Porn, Is Wondering Why He Hasn't Met Your New Guy"; "Your Mother's Goddaughter, Who Crashed with You for Many Days, Is Sorry She Didn't Have Any Time to Hang Out"; "Your Dad, Who Lacks Boundaries, Wants to Talk about Your Body"; "Your Dad's Six-Year-Old Son from His Second Marriage Discusses His Superior Childhood"; "Your Mom has Some New Judgements She'd Like to Share"; "Your Mom is having Some Issues with Regularity"; "Your Sister, Who has Two Exes in Jail, Agrees That You Gotta Do You." I loved every minute spent reading Nuclear Family! It is clever and humorous, from the titles to the letters themselves, and I laughed aloud through the whole novel. The titles preceding the letters can be just as comical as the letters themselves. The letter writers are clearly clueless as to what their letters are actually conveying and often over-sharing. Each family member has their own voice when writing, for example Jane writes her letters in text-speak, which adds a clever layer to the mix. You'll be surprised at how much of a story these letters tell about Julie's life - enough that you might want to look back at your own correspondence to see what stories are hidden there. Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Henry Holt & Company