Book Review: Did You Ever Have a Family by Bill Clegg

Did You Ever Have a FamilyDid You Ever Have a Family by Bill Clegg
Publisher: Gallery/Scout Press
Paperback Release Date: May 17, 2016
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Publisher’s Description:

On the eve of her daughter’s wedding, June Reid’s life is upended when a shocking disaster takes the lives of her daughter, her daughter’s fiancé, her ex-husband, and her boyfriend, Luke—her entire family, all gone in a moment. June is the only survivor.

Alone and directionless, June drives across the country, away from her small Connecticut town. In her wake, a community emerges, weaving a beautiful and surprising web of connections through shared heartbreak.

From the couple running a motel on the Pacific Ocean where June eventually settles into a quiet half-life, to the wedding’s caterer whose bill has been forgotten, to Luke’s mother, the shattered outcast of the town—everyone touched by the tragedy is changed as truths about their near and far histories finally come to light.

June has lost everyone important to her in a house fire – her daughter, her daughter’s finance, her ex-husband and her boyfriend Luke. She is left stunned and numb. Her way of dealing with her grief is to get out of town and away from everyone she knows.

June is not the only person dealing with grief and loss. Luke’s mother, Lydia, is dealing with the loss of her son in her own way. She’s a pariah in her own town for the fact that Luke is the product of her affair with a black man while she was married to a white man. She’s white too so it was obvious when Luke was born that Lydia’s husband was not the father. To everyone in town, this is evidence that she is a loose woman. Feeling alone, she strikes up a friendship with Winton, the con-artist who keeps calling wanting her to send him a $745 processing fee so he can send her the three million dollar lottery payout she has supposedly won.

The narrative alternates between several characters whose lives all intersect in some way. All of the characters are well-developed. In addition to exploring how different people deal with grief, there is the mystery of what caused the house to explode. Did Luke cause the explosion like everyone assumes or was it something else?

This book was a selection for my book club [side note – I joined a book club at my church that has been meeting for FORTY years] and it turned out to be a great choice. We talked a lot about how both June and Lydia processed their grief. And why did they make the choices they made in life, both before and after the fire? We also all agreed that there were so many characters that it was hard to keep them all straight at first. Some people made notes to keep track of who was who. Not a bad idea!

This is definitely not a feel-good novel but it is a wonderful exploration of grief and family. Recommended.

  • bermudaonion(Kathy)

    This sounds a little heart wrenching but in a good way, if you know what I mean. It’s amazing that your book club has been meeting so long!