Pete Dizinoff has lived his life doing what he believes is right; he's a good doctor, loyal friend, loving husband, and caring father. He and his wife, Elaine, have in many ways lived lives parallel to those of their best friends, Joe and Iris Stern. The two couples went to college together and settled in the same New Jersey town, but the Sterns have prospered slightly more than the Dizinoffs. Iris has a successful and lucrative career and Joe, also a doctor, has a taste for more exotic patients and diseases. While the Sterns were starting their family, with four children, Pete and Elaine struggled to have any children at all. The large home they bought in anticipation of multiple children came to symbolize their failed attempts at conception and pregnancy, which makes their only son, Alec, all the more precious to them.
When the Sterns' oldest daughter, Laura, commits a horrific and ineffable act, the Dizinoffs stand by their side, despite Pete's disgust and judgement. Laura, 17 at the time, escapes incarceration, but is sent away for psychiatric help. Now she's 30 years old, and has returned to New Jersey. Pete watches in horror as she and Alec, now 20, begin to date. Alec is not living up to his father's plans for him: he's dropped out of college, living at home, and spending his free time with a woman his father considers to be a criminal and a murderer.
Among narrator Rick Adamson's talents is creating extremely distinct voices for each of the characters, whose long exchanges sound genuinely like conversations between different people. His portrayal of these characters so appropriately reflects Grodstein's depiction of them that it's impossible not to get sucked into the story. He transitions smoothly from Pete's stern voice to Elaine's delicacy, and again from Alec's bratty adolescence to Laura's coolness. His ability to speak in Pete's voice is especially convincing, adding to the complexity the listener feels towards the protagonist, who despite making mistakes never seems unrational. Adamson puts us in Pete's psyche so effectively that even his worse flaws are subverted in his sense of logic and morality, so that he is never rendered unsympathetic. Pete's life is not everything he wanted it to be, but given the sacrifices he's made for his family, why can't Alec be the son his father wants him to be? Erin Ikeler
But Pete never counted on the wild card: Laura, his best friend's daughter - 10 years older than Alec, irresistibly beautiful, with a past so shocking that it's never spoken of. When Laura sets her sights on Alec, Pete sees his plans for his son not just unraveling but being destroyed completely. Believing he has only the best of intentions, he sets out to derail this romance and rescue his son. He could never have foreseen how his whole world would shatter in the process.
Lauren Grodstein delivers a riveting story in the tradition of The Ice Storm, American Beauty, and Little Children, charting a father's fall from grace as he struggles to save his family, his reputation, and himself.
©2009 Lauren Grodstein; (P)2009 HighBridge
I enjoyed A Friend of the Family although I did not care much for the main character. But the setting and circumstances are fairly interesting. I thought it was a good novel that kept me wanting to listen.
This book was well written, but it was a lot of effort for little reward. The hyper-controlling father was a little much to take, especially as there was no background given to indicate what could have made him such a freak. His own father dies, but that's it. He just dies. No relationship explored that might give the reader an indication of why he's such a bad father (because ultimately, this is a father-bashing book).
The infanticide seemed like it was going to be explored, but it wasn't really. Discussed much amongst the characters as a great scandal, or a great mystery, but not really explored. Why does Laura kill her baby? We never find out why. Because she was 17? What made her so screwed up when the rest of her siblings turned out so 'normal'? Because she was daddy's favourite? Was there abuse? Is this why she started having sex with random strangers in an alley behind the library every weekend? The causes of her bizarre behaviour are never speculated upon, although the protagonist certainly seems obsessed with her.
It is all a baffling mystery that the author does not suffiently resolve at all.
The book and the characters just left me cold.
This is one of the first audiobooks I've read that I couldn't stop listening to. The characters drew me in as did the writing and plot. The book was witty at times, even though there were heavy situations. The narrator was excellent. A bit disappointed to see that he mostly does nonfiction books- hope he does more fiction in the future.
I couldn't stop listening to this book. It kept me asking "why?" and "how?" until the very end. The character development was strong and now that i'm finished, I'll miss listening to it. The narrator reads with strong emotion and does a wonderful job "characterising" the characters!
I could not make it past Part 1. Was this written in 1950? I can't believe this was written by a woman, unless "Lauren" is a man's name in this case. This book is full of guy talk, acting out, limited insight and nuance, and no speaking parts for women. What few women who do appear now and then usually defer to their husbands. And of course, there is the customary sexual tension and liaison between an older man and his son's female friend.
I'd give this a pass.
I have to agree with the other reviewer. I stuck this through to the end but I don't know why. The characters were all extremely unlikeable and the narration just didn't work.
This audio book is sub-standard in every way: It's badly written with a cookie-cutter plot and stereotypes instead of characters and the narration is awful. I struggled through a couple of hours and then gave up, if I had the choice I'd rather watch paint dry.
ENJOYED THIS BOOK. I HATED FOR IT TO END.
The narrator: solid voice/felt like it matched the main character perfectly
The story: interesting and edgy/ I enjoy stories about a male since I am a female!
This books stayed with me long after I listened to it!
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