Book Review: Families and Other Nonreturnable Gifts

Coming from a family of gifted brainiacs and oddballs, Keats Sedlak considers herself the only sane member of the family but considering she has stayed with the same steady boyfriend from the time she was fifteen years old, that assertion might be a stretch. Live-in boyfriend Tom was twenty when he began wooing Keats and they fell into a relationship despite her mother’s serious misgivings. Although her parents had been divorced for years, they continued living in the same house. Keats’s father, a brilliant professor occupied the attic and aided by his capable assistant and graduate student Jacob, rarely ventured out. Keats brother Milton is a computer whiz who hardly comes out of his bedroom where he works on designing computer games, her older sister Hopkins is a gifted neurosurgeon with hospital rooms being named after her.

A Harvard graduate, Keats’s mother is no slouch in the brains department either and succeeds in shaking the family up with her deceleration that its time to sell the house and start a new life. As Keats comes to terms with her mother’s dating, attempts to draw Milton out and copes with the demands of packing up years worth of memories, she begins to reevaluate her relationship to her family and to Tom. Eventually, Keats comes to realize the sister she was always intimidated by and in awe of is an emotional cripple when it comes to dealing with other people. She begins discovering her strengths as well as uncovering some blind spots before discovering new love.

This fun, slightly warped piece of chic lit does more then simply entertain as it deals with the very real issues of aging parents, spring/fall love affairs, sibling rivalries and more. The story draws readers in as Keats reveals family history, begins working through her feelings about her mother reentering the dating scene, her relationship with Tom, and struggles to find a way to reach Milton. Watching Keats find her way and grow up is a treat and makes for a sweet, uplifting late summer read.

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