Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Book Review: Family Pictures

Sylvie and Maggie are as different as two women can be. A soon-to-be empty-nester, Sylvie spends her days in California making candles, wining and dining with her closest friends and attending to her mother's needs. Maggie, mother of three, lives the high society life in Connecticut, trying to impress her neighbors with her wealth. However, these women have something in common that they would have never expected. And when something happens to bring them together in the worst possible way, they have to decide who is to blame and whether they can forgive.

Amy Bromberg:
Reading a Jane Green novel can be compared to a hearty stew. SO many yummy foods and ingredients go into one, including beef, chicken, carrots, beans, mushrooms, peppers, potatoes, onion, various seasonings, wine, stock, flour, etc. Just like a stew, which has layers and layers of deliciousness, a Jane Green novel has layers and layers of hearty characters, plot lines and emotions. Be prepared for a read like no other....the stew in Family Pictures.

Jane Green develops her characters and settings beautifully. Each character has such deep and intense layers. Just when the reader thinks they know Sylvie and/or Maggie, she learns something new about them. I felt I was sitting with both women and experiencing their hardships. I also love the way that Jane describes and illustrates Maggie and Sylvie’s homes. I’m somewhat familiar with the various wealthy towns and communities in Connecticut, with huge houses on gorgeous pieces of land, but unfortunately I’ve never visited one. (Side note…I love looking at houses, especially mansions. Since I’ve been little it’s something I’ve really enjoyed). The way Jane describes Maggie’s home, it’s like I was there experiencing and seeing everything. The same goes for Sylvie’s place in La Jolla, CA.

One of the things that Sylvie and Maggie have in common is never feeling like their good enough, and constantly having to prove themselves. I can definitely relate to this. Growing up nothing I ever did was good enough for my mother. She often compared me to one of the students in my class who always got A’s. It seemed that I always made the wrong decisions. There are still times now, as an adult, where I feel I’m trying to prove myself to others.

As many of you know most novels that I love I have trouble putting down and just breeze right through them. In the case of Family Pictures, I found myself savoring every word, which was such a comforting experience. It was like snuggling up with a blanket and a cup of tea or hot chocolate, or sitting in front of a fire in a log cabin. I sat with each chapter and let it resonate, especially at the end.

Family Pictures is a story about the importance of family, friendship, and a mother’s love for her children. It’s also about finding your true self when you’ve been faking it for so many years. Apparently, tragedies can help people find their inner selves. I can’t recommend this book enough, and it would make a wonderful book club pick. I’m so excited to be seeing Jane tonight at her New York book signing at the Barnes and Noble on the Upper East Side.

Melissa Amster:
I have never met a Jane Green novel I didn't like and Family Pictures is definitely no exception! I devoured it from beginning to end, reading a huge chunk of it in the span of one day. This ranks as one of my favorites of Jane's novels. I really felt like it was truly her voice again. (In the past couple of novels, she had sounded like Kristin Hannah, but this time, it was all Jane coming through on the pages.)

Family Pictures was beautifully written with lots of detail that only enhanced the story. I could really visualize the characters and locations. I like how she distinguished between voices by having one woman in first-person and one woman in third-person. The women were such a contrast to each other, but I liked them both. I thought I wouldn't like Maggie at first, since she seemed so uptight, but then she grew on me. Sylvie was easily likable from the beginning. The teenagers in the story made me worried for when my daughter eventually reaches her teens. Some of the stuff they said or did was so disturbing. Jane handles a common issue amongst teenage girls with sensitivity, but also tough love. She doesn't hold back in terms of the consequences involved. Mothers should show this novel to their teenage daughters if they're worried about this issue being a reality for them.

The story had a few tear-worthy moments. I didn't expect myself to get choked up, but it happened nonetheless. In contrast, there are some good steamy moments. Nothing over the top, but enough to whet the appetite. The only concern I had was that the coincidence that happened at the climax of the story seemed a bit forced. Like, what are the odds of something like that actually happening?

Overall, I loved Family Pictures and have been recommending it to family members and friends. I'm already clamoring for Jane's next novel, even though I'll have to wait another year for it!

Thanks to St. Martin's Press for the book in exchange for an honest review. They're giving away some copies at Jane's special food-themed post on CLC.

More by Jane Green:

1 comment:

Margie Durham said...

I love Jane Green. I am hoping to meet her.