Source: West Florida Public Library
On the eve of her daughter’s wedding, June Reid’s life is completely devastated 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. And 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.
Lately, I’ve been having tremendous luck finding library books that are on my TBR list: The Shore, Dietland, Fates and Furies, A Little Life, etc… And, although I already had a little pile on my nightstand, I decided to also grab Did You Ever Have A Family off the new fiction shelf. I remembered seeing several other bloggers reading and writing about it recently and thought I would see what it’s all about. I read the dust jacket and thought it sounded a little more solemn than my usual read, but I thought I’d give it a try.
I was about 75 pages into it when I realized that now was not a good time for me to be reading this book.
These last two months have probably been the most difficult of my adult life. My husband and I are both without work, and both having difficulty securing new jobs. Fortunately, with some lifestyle changes and a little savings, we’re managing, but we are both experiencing increased levels of stress and anxiety.
With my current circumstances being quite stressful and often depressing, I found it difficult to enjoy this book. It’s not that I identified with the characters or their tragic losses, but reading such a sad story worked to bring my mood down even further. I kept reading, hoping for some uplifting turn of events. And while I did like the interconnectedness amongst the characters, and how it came together in a circular fashion in the end, I closed the book feeling much the same. It was just so very sad. And so was I.
Beyond my own feelings, there was also something about the way Clegg writes that didn’t jive with me. The way some parts were written in present tense was weird and it made it difficult for me to follow. But what bothered me most was Clegg’s propensity for writing never-ending sentences. For example,
“There’s safety in numbers, Lydia’s mother would say as she blew clouds of smoke through the kitchen from behind the Formica table where she sat each night with her schnapps, like a general at her battle station making speeches to the troops.”
Yet I wonder: would this have bothered me if I wasn’t having such a strong reaction to the story?
Ultimately, I can’t help but wonder how differently I might have perceived this book if I’d read it at a different time, when my personal life was a little less chaotic. Would I rave about it like my fellow bloggers? Should I read it again down the road to see if my mind changes? I just don’t know. And that’s why I won’t give this book a rating. It’s like when a couple splits up, and the one doing the splitting says, “it’s not you, it’s me.”
Sorry, Did You Every Have A Family, the problem was with me, not you.