A Friend of the Family by Lauren Grodstein is set in North Jersey, not far from New York. This contemporary fiction novel focuses on family, friends, love, and strife. The majority of the novel is based on flashbacks from the viewpoint of the protagonist, Pete.
Throughout the novel two couples who are best friends, Elaine and Pete, and Iris and Joe, as well as, their respective Children, journey through life together. The four adults meet in college and vacation in Rehoboth Beach while their children are growing up. Eventually, both families move into a wealthy community, Round Hill, only a few blocks apart. Pete and Joe are both doctors, whereas Elaine is a teacher and Iris is a lawyer. No matter what life throws their way, their friendship never fails to overcome the obstacles of growing up and growing old.
Joe and Iris’ daughter, Laura, a troubled teen who committed an unimaginable crime in high school, returns home more than ten years after the incident to try to reconnect with a family she barely knows. Alec, Elaine and Pete’s son, has also struggled with his own life after dropping out of college to work on his art, independently. Alec is drawn to Laura and her need to be saved. They soon fall in love, despite both of their father’s disapproval.
As the story progresses, the present day crisis drags on and on. Rosanne Craig is a young girl who is a patient of Pete’s. Her symptoms of depression are present throughout the novel, making the reader wonder when the reason for her storyline is going to be explained. You won’t even find out what the main problem is until the story more than 75% over. All of a sudden the turning point comes, the problem is resolved (sort of,) and then the novel ends, just like that.
I enjoyed this novel mostly because the author, Lauren Grodstein, is a professor at Rutgers University in Camden, the college I attended and graduated from. The novel mentions many locations in New Jersey that I am familiar with, including Rutgers itself. I wouldn’t say I disliked the ever-changing storyline within the novel, but I thought it was slow-moving and ended too abruptly. There could have been fewer flashbacks from Pete so that more time was spent elaborating on the ending and resolving a few more problems that occurred during the flashbacks. All in all, the novel held my attention long enough so that I could read large chunks of it each time I picked it up. I look forward to reading Ms. Grodstein’s Next book, which comes out in September 2013, The Explanation for Everything.