Monday, May 23, 2016

Did You Ever Have a Family by Bill Clegg

I came across Did You Ever Have a Family when I was browsing for audiobooks available now at the library, having just finished one and not having any lined up to listen to.  I downloaded it along with two others and ended up choosing the others first.  I finally got around to it when I realized the loan was going to expire in a few days.  I'm glad I gave it a go.

Did You Ever Have a Family felt a little like several books in one.  At first, particularly in audio format, I found that to be confusing.  This might have gone a bit more smoothly if I were reading it and could flip back to remember, "who is this again?"  The story is told from the point of view of many different characters.  Some we return to, others are one shots.  The main event the story is built around is a tragedy.  In the wee hours of a wedding day, the house where the bride, groom and several family members are sleeping explodes.  Over the course of the book, we learn the back story, how the survivors are effected and the like.

A lot of bad things happen to the characters in this book.  So much so that I'm surprised I liked the book.  I don't have a lot of patience for bad turn of event upon bad turn of event usually.  Also, the point of view jumping doesn't always work for me.  However, it ultimately did all work for me this time.  The book hit on several themes that are often good ones for me, one of which was the back story of the groom's family who has the kind of familial relationship that gives me warm fuzzies.  Add onto that that each of the three kids in said family went to colleges that Davan either considered or ended up at the consortium of and that was a particularly winning mix for me.  (This leads me to an aside I'm addressing in another post.)

I just read a review that suggested that Bill Clegg's good writing is what makes people like this otherwise not deep or likable book.  That could be.  That combined with very identifiable parts of the story are probably enough to make this book work for me and for me to overlook things I might not otherwise.  Still, though, if this is his style of writing, I think that's enough of an endorsement of Bill Clegg that I'm going to take a look at Portrait of an Addict as a Young man and, depending on how that goes, Ninety Days, both memoirs of his struggles with addiction.

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