HOW TO BE A GOOD WIFE by Emma Chapman

Marta Bjornstad is the chillingly robotic narrator of Emma Chapman’s psychological thriller, How to Be a Good Wife, a disturbing portrait of a woman whose mind may be playing tricks on her. After twenty-five years of marriage, Marta’s existence is tightly regimented: She shops, cooks, cleans the house, does laundry, and tends to her husband, Hector’s, needs. The title is derived from a book of the same name filled with platitudes about how a perfect spouse should behave. Marta’s controlling and overbearing mother-in-law, Matilda, presented the book to her sons’ young bride as a wedding gift, expecting Marta to dutifully memorize every page. One example of the book’s contents: “Your husband belongs to the outside world. The house is your domain, and your responsibility.”

January 10, 2014 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , ,  · Posted in: Debut Novel, Family Matters, Psychological Suspense

MOTHER, MOTHER by Koren Zailckas

Koren Zailckas’ Mother, Mother is a tale of psychological horror–a savage portrayal of a narcissist, Josephine Hurst, who lies compulsively, shamelessly manipulates her family, and tries to destroy anyone who crosses her. This disturbing story is told in alternating chapters by twelve-year-old William Hurst and his sixteen-year-old sister, Violet. William is mommy’s prissy little boy whom Josephine home schools (he has been diagnosed with autism and epilepsy) and infantilizes; Will is completely dependent on his mother and will do anything to stay in her good graces. Violet, on the other hand, is a rebel. She chops off her hair, takes mind-altering substances, and refuses to be intimidated by Josephine’s sick behavior. Josephine’s husband, Douglas, is, for the most part, an ineffectual bystander who gives his wife free reign. Missing from the picture is twenty-year-old Rose, whom Josephine was grooming to be a famous actress. Rose left home abruptly and never returned.

December 28, 2013 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , ,  · Posted in: Debut Novel, Family Matters, Mystery/Suspense, Psychological Suspense

THE FAMILY FANG by Kevin Wilson

Perhaps it’s entirely appropriate that their last name is Fang. For Caleb and Camille are truly parasites—sucking the blood out of their children, while using them primarily in the service of their art. “Kids kill art,” the elder Fangs’ mentor once told them. Determined to prove him wrong, Caleb and Camille incorporate Annie and Buster, their two children, into their art—even referring to them as Child A and Child B, mere props in the various performance art sketches they carry out.

September 5, 2011 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , ,  · Posted in: 2011 Favorites, Contemporary, Debut Novel, Family Matters, Humorous

STRANGERS AT THE FEAST by Jennifer Vanderbes

Let me say it straight out: STRANGERS AT THE FEAST is astoundingly GOOD. Page-turning, jaw-dropping, laugh-out-loud, cry-into-your-sleeves, gasp-with-recognition GOOD. It takes on nothing less than the theme of what is wrong with America today and it does it very well.

The action takes place over one Thanksgiving day with lots of flashbacks. There hasn’t been a family like the Olsons since Zoe Heller’s The Believers – with a dollop of the movie Pieces of April blended in. This family DEFINES dysfunction.

November 24, 2010 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , , ,  · Posted in: Contemporary, Family Matters, NE & New York

THE HANDBOOK OF LIGHTNING STRIKE SURVIVORS by Michele Young-Stone

Michele Young-Stone’s debut novel, THE HANDBOOK FOR LIGHNING STRIKE SURVIVORS has, at its premise, the impact of lightning strikes on people and their loved ones. It is primarily about a young woman named Becca who comes from a dysfunctional family with an alcoholic mother and a philandering father. It is also about Buckley who loves his mother very much but is filled with guilt and remorse about his life.

November 2, 2010 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: ,  · Posted in: Contemporary, Debut Novel, Family Matters, Humorous, New York City, US South

BITTER IN THE MOUTH by Monique Truong

Early on in Monique Truong’s powerful new novel, BITTER IN THE MOUTH, the narrator, Linda Hammerick, realizes her family is keeping secrets from her. “What I know about you, little girl, would break you in two. Those were the last words that my grandmother ever said to me,” Linda recalls. It will take many more years before Linda can discover what those secrets are but before then she must navigate a strained childhood in the small town of Boiling Springs, North Carolina.

September 1, 2010 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , ,  · Posted in: 2010 Favorites, Coming-of-Age, Contemporary, Family Matters, Literary, Reading Guide