Posted by: chartroose | August 18, 2008

Family History

Lately, I’ve been reading faster than I’ve been reviewing, which is totally stressing me out because CHARTROOSE ABSOLUTELY MUST BLOG ABOUT EVERYTHING SHE READS!  Don’t ask me why I have to be so anal about this, but I do.  So, here is one of the books that I finished recently and neglected to write about:

Dani Shapiro, 2003, 269 p.

I snuck this in between a couple of other more difficult reads.  It was fast, easy, and definitely lower middle-class as far as enjoyment and literary merit are concerned.  I think part of the reason I had some problems taking this seriously is due to the fact that it’s one of those “marriage and family” women’s books which always tend to bother me.  So many of them seem too formulaic: an ideal family (mom, dad, a couple of kids and usually a common type of pet) have their peaceful existence shattered by some kind of horrendous trauma.  Will they be able to survive it, or will the family break apart forever?  They all end the same:  happily ever after.  I guess I’m just not “girly” enough for this kind of melodrama.  I much prefer space operas to soap operas, thank you very much!

Family History is about Rachel and Ned Jensen, a very nice couple whose daughter begins to go loony tunes when she hits puberty and becomes a defiant little brat.  She really goes over the edge after she accidentally drops her baby brother on his head while babysitting one evening, seriously injuring him.  Rachel and Ned end up having to place her in a residential treatment facility because she starts to self-destruct in a big way.  The ending is totally saccharine, and the very last sentence is a stupid cliché.  Gawd!  Here’s the last part of the last sentence: “…and we all hold onto one another for dear life.”  Can you believe it?  The editor of this novel should be horsewhipped or at least severely chastised!

I’m going to go through my TBR list and eliminate most if not all similar novels.  In addition to my current memoir moratorium, I’m going to stop reading “mommy” and “chick-lit” novels, at least most of the time.  They really do disgust me.



  1. I have typed and deleted a bunch of words here… I am not sure if I’ve read any ‘mommy’ books but I enjoy a well-written chick-litty book occasionally. We surely can find plenty of books that will keep you amused and inspired, yes? (really, this post made me chuckle…)

  2. Ick! And I’ll bet that the first sentence was “It was a dark and stormy night,” yes? 😉

  3. Chartroose,
    There, there now. How were you to know?? The cover wasn’t lipstick pink with shoes on it to warn you away!

    I’m avoiding novels now with these words in the title: “daughter” “wife” “sister” and “sisterhood”…made the mistake of telling friends, and when we went into a bookstore, they would purposely seek them out then call out to me as if they’d found something rare and beautiful.

  4. Oh Bybee! Now, WE, too can harass, I mean, help you find new books!

    very funny – snorted coffee on my keyboard…

  5. I’m not a mommy/chick-lit reader either. I’m not a mommy myself, so those are lost on me. I’m sure there’s some great chick-lit out there, I just tend to pass on it. No real reason.

    Have a great day!

  6. It’s frustrating when books which have a potential for something interesting turn out to be such a disappointment. I felt this way about Ann Packer’s book, The Dive from Clausen’s Pier, which wasn’t marketed as chick-lit, I don’t think, but didn’t aim much higher in either the writing or the questions raised inside. It doesn’t look (am judging from the cover) that this book was either.

    I love your rage at the editor – I definitely feel that way often!

  7. Oy, I tend to keep those books far, far away from me. If you want to bore me to death, you could hardly do better than putting a chick/mommy-kit novel in my hands and forcing me to read. It’s the stuff of nightmares. *shivers*

  8. The beginning sounded interesting, and the end sounded terrible. That must be why I avoid chick-lit and similar kind of books. They just appear so annoyingly insipid.

  9. Thanks, everyone! I was laughing so hard at Jeane and Bybee’s remarks that I think I reherniated my hernia!

    Care–Yeah, I feel like I need to read something a little “off-the-wall” and original. Jill mentioned a novel about some sort of insect (cockroaches, maybe) that she said was almost as quirky as Geek Love. I hope it’s not roaches, because the book may bring back some repressed memories of struggling through Kafka in high school.

    Jeane–I wish it had started with “it was a dark and stormy night.” Maybe then I wouldn’t have wasted my time! Nah, I probably would’ve read it anyway because I had to find out if the daughter was going to exclaim, “the sow is mine” and spin her head around in circles. Plus, I wouldn’t have missed the “…hold on to one another for dear life” line for anything.

    Bybee–Oh, man, this made me laugh so hard! Have you noticed how chick-lit covers either have pictures of shoes or a headless torso of an anorexic young woman? I’m going to compose an angry post about this very soon! Also, I’m going to be sending The Alchemist’s Daughter your way, along with The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants The Ya-Ya Sisterhood series, The Memory Keeper’s Daughter and that dumb Jodi Picoult novel about the girl who is conceived to become an organ donor for her diseased sister.

    Lezlie–Yeah, we’re way to classy for chick-lit and mommy books. I am a mother, but I’m not a MOTHER, if you know what I mean. I expected the girls to dress, feed and clean themselves by the time they were 4. They were to catch their own damn rides to school because it started way too early for me and I needed my beauty sleep. They were expected to have full-time jobs and be paying me back for all my toil by the time they were 8 or 9. None of this namby-pamby, coddling, poor widdle baby crap for them, no sir! I think they hate love me for it now.

    Verbivore–I agree, it IS frustrating. I couldn’t even get through The Dive from Clausen’s Pier. That novel was just terrible, and it missed the mark completely. I couldn’t stand either Carrie or Mike and their pettiness and narcissism.

    Joy–Yep, yep, yep! I feel the same way, so why do I keep picking one of these up every now and then? It doesn’t make any sense at all! Oh, I’m sending you some of the Sisters of Holmes County series. I feel like you need to get some religion, and what better way than to read about the fictional trials and tribulations of Amish women?

    Jeane–They really are annoyingly insipid, and I can’t remember the last good chick-lit/mommy-lit book I read. Does We Need to Talk About Kevin count as mommy-lit? If so, then that’s the last good one.

  10. ugh! I feel the same way! I cant stand them. So many women in my family give me all these books wiht the ever famous “Well, since you read so much” or “I thought of you”. Yikes! Yes, I do read a lot, a lot of QUALITY literature. Not that junk!

  11. I can very much understand a memoir and chick lit / mommy lit moratorium. I use chick lit and the like very rarely as a pure diversion, just like Janet Evanovich. Sometimes I just need to lighten the mood. I’m sorry this one didn’t work for you. You just need to find the kind of book that works as a reading stress reliever for you. I’ll be very interested in what you find. I hope that your next book is more satisfying to you.

    I’m just like you about the reviewing. I absolutely have to blog about each and every one. Hopefully all will seem better as the weather cools down. 🙂

  12. Oh damn…that sounds like one very bad VERY BAD box. Shudder.

  13. This made me laugh! That last sentence GACKKKK!!!! They couldn’t come up with anything else?

    I just read a horrible horrible Brit chick lit book that was sent by the publisher. I’m puzzling over how to write the review. But I’m with you- no more chick lit or crappy family memoirs. I’m doooooone. Stick a fork in me.

  14. Jessica–You know, with the way WE feel about these novels, I wonder who is actually reading them. Do the family members who give them to you read them? Do they read anything at all?

    Literate–I also like(d) Janet Evanovich. Man, I forgot about her! It has been awhile since I’ve read any Stephanie Plum books, so I wonder if I’d still enjoy her now.

    Bybee–And this is only the beginning of my evilllll plan to destroy your brain! Mwahahahahahaha!

    Lisa–Hooray! You can join Stephanie and I in our boycott. We should get together and carry signs in front of Random House!

  15. I am experiencing the same thing lately! I recently read Sex, Murder, and a Double Latte by Kyra Davis, and while it wasn’t awful, it has inspired me to purge most chick lit off of my TBR. I can’t stand cozies lately either! *cringe*

    a maybe someday wannabe book blogger,

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