The most striking thing to me about this book was the quiet Clegg managed to write into the story. A tragedy such as a fatal house fire is something that could be easily written with a dramatic air and an eye towards sensationalization. The fire could easily become the central part of the story. But Clegg pushed past that to a sweet spot of silent anguish and redemption. The fire is a cataclysmic event that gets a small role in a story that is brought together by it. And that, then, puts the focus on the important moments. When Lolly decides that her mother is selfish. When Lydia chooses fear of being alone over her son. When Luke decides to forgive. When June and Lydia build a family in order to rebuild themselves. Those moments are where the magic happens in a family--- good or bad. It's where our individual roles are defined and our place in society is determined. And where the family is either strengthened or destroyed.
Bill Clegg's writing was understated, accessible and beautiful. He clearly understood his characters (even those that appeared to be secondary to the story) as well as if they were family. He wrote a complicated story of complex characters that is completely relatable. While I might not have a brand new stove (so cheap), I've never blown up my house (although I have rolled a convertible on a straight away in dead stopped traffic. So never say never). I've ::knock on wood:: never experienced a tragedy of the magnitude in Did You Ever Have a Family. However, I was able to pinpoint exact moments in my life where I've felt like each of Clegg's characters.
I have a feeling I'll be going down the Bill Clegg non-fiction rabbit hole soon. One of the best compliments I can give a writer. And if this is his debut novel, I'll surely be adding him to my "must pre-order" list.
The stunning debut novel from bestselling author Bill Clegg is a magnificently powerful story about a circle of people who find solace in the least likely of places as they cope with a horrific tragedy.
On the eve of her daughter's wedding, June Reid's life is completely devastated when a shocking disaster takes the lives of her daughter, her daughter's fiance, her ex-husband, and her boyfriend, Luke--her entire family, all gone in a moment. And June is the only survivor. Alone and directionless, June drives across the country, away from her small Connecticut town. In her wake, a community emerges, weaving a beautiful and surprising web of connections through shared heartbreak.
From the couple running a motel on the Pacific Ocean where June eventually settles into a quiet half-life, to the wedding's caterer whose bill has been forgotten, to Luke's mother, the shattered outcast of the town--everyone touched by the tragedy is changed as truths about their near and far histories finally come to light.
Elegant and heartrending, and one of the most accomplished fiction debuts of the year, "Did You Ever Have a Family "is an absorbing, unforgettable tale that reveals humanity at its best through forgiveness and hope. At its core is a celebration of family--the ones we are born with and the ones we create.