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Crescent Blues Book ViewsCrown Publishing

Family sagas run the danger of turning into maudlin overwrought soap operas, but this first novel about a New Jersey family waiting for the next crisis to erupt proves both honest and heartfelt. The unfolding story, told from six points of view, opens with Catharine, the ailing matriarch trying her best to hold the family together. Granddaughter Gracie with her unplanned pregnancy and unruly life complicates the picture. We watch them pull together under the worst of circumstances and understand that sometimes family connections are only relative.

Book: ann napolitano, within arms reach
As the McLaughlins deal with Catharine's aging, the painful breakup of the rest of the family contributes to a complete meltdown. Childless Aunt Angel attempts to convince Gracie to relinquish her unborn child for adoption by Angel and her husband. Gracie's father rescues a wheelchair-bound uncle whose continuing odd behavior stems from his service in Vietnam. Even Gracie's sister Lila, star of her medical school class and of her family, shows signs of pulling away. Attracted to a local firefighter with an interest in meditation, Lila threatens to chuck her dreams of becoming a doctor to follow her heart.

With this odd assortment of characters to taint family events, Gracie's generation feels no connection to each other. But Catherine, ever the matriarch, refuses to give up. She sees the birth of Gracie's baby as the beginning of something new and as the glue to hold her family together for future generations.

In a lesser writer's hands, the various family stories could grow tedious. Napolitano's skillful writing in this intergenerational old-fashioned story breaks your heart, then makes you laugh in recognition.

Augusta Scattergood

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