"Okay, tell me which you want," Alek asks his cousin at the outset of What the Family Needed."To be able to fly or to be invisible?" And soon Giordana, a teenager suffering the bitter fallout of her parents’ divorce, finds that she can, at will, become as invisible as she feels. Later, Alek’s mother, newly adrift in the disturbing awareness that all is not well with her younger son, can suddenly swim with Olympic endurance. Steven Amsterdam’s incandescent novel follows the members of this gorgeously imagined extended family over three decades, as they each discover, at a moment of crisis, that they possess a supernatural power.
But instead of crimes to fight and villains to vanquish, the family confronts inner demons, and their extraordinary abilities prove to be not so much magic weapons but expressions of their fears and longings as they struggle to come to terms with who they are and what fate deals them. As the years pass, their lives intersect and overlap in surprising and poignant ways, and the real magic is revealed to lie not in their superpowers but in the very human and miraculous ways they are able to accept, protect, and love one another.
This is a story about a family that is much like any other family. The story spans the lives of numerous family members as they learn to cope with life. What makes this family different from others is that each of the members of the family develops a super power--just when he or she seems to need it most. The powers really do seem to reflect just what the family needed.
The book's chapters are each focused on one member of the family. While the focus is on that particular family member, each chapter includes other family members as their lives intersect. A daughter discovers the ability to turn invisible, and her brother can fly. Their mother can hear the thoughts of other people, and her sister becomes a super-powered swimmer. The mother's brother-in-law can make (most) of his wishes come true, and his and his wife's children each have their own powers: one son can cause people to fall in love with each other. The other son has a power that is quite special and is not revealed until the final chapter of the book.
Each chapter ended with a mini-cliffhanger, which certainly kept the story moving along. I was eager to learn what would happen next. Each character's story was well told and interesting. I greatly enjoyed witnessing this family grow over the course of 30ish years in such a short amount of time. My only complaint is the ending. Much like the other chapters, the book seemed to end on a bit of a cliff-hanger that was meant to wrap up the book. I thought it ended just a bit too abruptly, and I would have liked to learn just about what would happen next. Who knows? Maybe there will be a sequel!
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