Monday, January 18, 2016

Review: "Did You Ever Have a Family" by Bill Clegg

Bill Clegg’s debut novel Did you Ever Have a Family was a release from last year that I was hearing very good things about, and for the most part, it lives up to my expectations. It gently but drastically takes the tragic events of one person’s life and shows how it affects not only those close to her and others affected by the tragedy, but people who come in contact with her and their own stories. In short, digestible chapters, we are introduced to a stellar cast of characters, each carrying their own burden, and greatly affected by June, the main character of the book, where this book falls flat in its failure to balance the intrigue with these separate stories, especially when it comes to the central plot and the not so ultimate revelation. For how short it is, and how short the chapters are, there were few too many moments I found myself bored, and eager to read one of the more interesting sections. The tragedy at the center of it all, which we never truly get to witness, is an explosion that claims the lives of all June Reid loved ones, from her daughter and her fiancĂ©, who were to be married that weekend, to her philandering ex-husband and boyfriend. It could be a comical case of bad luck anywhere else, but here, it is just sad as we watch June check out and finally go on a drive across the country, where she stays at the motel owned by Rebecca and Kelly, a lesbian couple. I loved getting to know everybody, from the mom of Jane’s boyfriend, Lydia, whose history is fraught with secrets and rumors, to George, who faces his own set of tragedies as he is slowly connected to the events. As I said, some of the sections overshadow others, like George’s section, and the backstory of Rebecca and Kelly, and the revelation at the end involving a boy named Silas is not very well explained and not very impactful. But Clegg’s talent is undeniable, and if you are seeking a different kind of family novel, you are in good hands.

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