Published July 17th, 2018 by Flatiron Books
Genre: Literary Fiction
My Rating 4/5 Stars
You might remember my obsession last summer with The Resurrection of Joan Ashby…it was pretty intense. From the very beginning of that incredible novel I was enchanted and I gushed about on Instagram, in real life to anyone who would listen, and here on my blog. So I am sure that you as fellow bookworms can imagine my excitement when I learned that Cherise Wolas had a second novel coming out.
Although asking for review copies still makes me nervous, I found the courage to ask for this one. I knew there was no way I could wait all the way until July to get my hands on what was my most anticipated book of the year! And much to my delight, a few days later this gorgeous galley copy arrived on my doorstep (along with My Ex-Life, which was a total surprise and a book that I adored.) Huge thank you to the fantastic book folks over at Flatiron books for both advanced copies! I was ready to drop everything and start it immediately, but I held off for a while, waiting to participate in the #teamtabor buddy read with a bunch of other book bloggers who had also been enamored with Joan Ashby.
My excitement over this book was real, but I was also just a little bit nervous going into it. After all, Joan Ashby had been SO GOOD. I wasn’t sure another book could live up to my feelings for that one and it made me a little hesitant. But I am happy to report that Wolas does not disappoint in The Family Tabor. This book is different, but is every bit as superbly written… the prose is absolutely gorgeous from start to finish. No sentence is out of place, no scene feels unnecessary, and I found myself on more than one occasion flipping back to read a particularly resonate passage another time. Although it didn’t sweep me away as completely as Joan Ashby did, I still loved it.
It is the story of the Tabor family (no surprise there), as they gather together to celebrate Harry Tabor’s award– Man of the Decade. The chapters alternate between the third-person perspectives (a technique I happen to love) of Harry, his wife Roma, and their three children, Phoebe (an attorney), Camille (a social anthropologist), and Simon (also a lawyer) and also Simon’s wife Elena.
Every single one of these characters is a complete person–a fully formed, three dimensional character. A seemingly perfect, successful family, but each member is struggling with a secret, and we get backstories on each of them, which I found to be immersive and fascinating. Wolas has an incredible ability to write people so realistically… to say things we’ve all thought, but haven’t been able to (or wanted to) express. She puts into words things–mannerisms, flutterings of feeling, physical descriptions–so well that it just makes her characters feel wholly real. From the beginning, I felt like I knew these characters.
I will say, as much as I loved this book, I did have a little bit of a problem with the character of Harry Tabor… specifically with the fact that he recovers some memories that he has somehow had suppressed for years, which completely alter they way he thinks about himself and his life. I am certainly not opposed to this plot element. I think it’s a fascinating choice and I absolutely loved the way it played out in the rest of the novel. But the revelation of these memories felt too quick to me, and I didn’t really buy into it. Did he really not know, for so many years of his life? I had to suspend my disbelief in order to continue on, and although I hoped I’d get more of a resolution on this matter, it didn’t really come through. Although the rest of the novels strengths and the spectacular writing overshadowed it, this made the novel 4 stars for me instead of 5.
Even so, I loved the direction this book took. I loved the historical aspects, the aspects of Jewish culture and history, and I really liked the way it ended. The ending was exactly what it should have been. It left me wanting more, but also feeling like it couldn’t have happened any other way.
If you’re looking for a plot driven novel with everything tied up neatly and happily, this one might not be for you. Likewise if you’re looking for a quick and light read for the summer, as I found this book to be pretty heavy. But if you’re a fan of truly beautiful writing, of deep and intellectual stories about the complicated natures of families, and if you enjoy history and relationships and character driven pages, pick this one up. You’ll find it on the shelves on July 17th. And if you haven’t already read The Resurrection of Joan Ashby, let me just remind you that you ought to read that one too! And now I’ll just be waiting around impatiently for Wolas’ third book, which I’ve seen hinted at from time to time on her Instagram!