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Arts & Culture

August Book Review - Did You Ever Have a Family

August Book Review

"Did You Ever Have a Family" is the first novel but third book by literary agent and author Bill Clegg. His first two books are memoirs yet, he seems much too young to have lived enough life to fill two memoirs but he has.

Clegg was a literary golden boy, working at various prestigious agencies until he and a partner opened their own. His very public fall from Grace, due to a crack cocaine addiction, cost him nearly everything and almost his life. These experiences hone his ability to create a story and populate it with complicated characters feeling shame, guilt, regret, depression and eventually love, redemption and hope. As we learn the back story, it’s impossible for the reader not to empathize.

The novel begins with a bang - literally. As the sun rises on a sleepy, Connecticut town June, unable to sleep, strolls around the rambling yard of her home, soon to be the site of her daughter's wedding. The bride, her groom, Junes' ex-husband and her current boyfriend still sleep. An explosion erupts within the house completely destroying it and everyone inside in seconds. Lives are ended - lives are changed.

The story unfolds in chapters featuring June and 10 others who are attached to her in some way. Some pass by quickly, make an observation or relay information and disappear. Two of the characters, Adam -  the ex-husband and Luke - the current boyfriend, never step forward to introduce or defend themselves. Instead we rely on observations and opinions of others. Interestingly, the chapters involving our two main characters; June and Lydia are told in third person allowing the reader to be a voyeur, rather than a  confidant, into how these women cope with the tragedy impacting their lives.

It's painfully easy to see why, even though June continues to live and breathe, she doesn't consider herself a survivor. And it's hopeful to see, that after decades of being a victim, Lydia is taking her life into her own hands.

Cissy sums it up saying, "Rough as life can be, I know in my bones we are supposed to stick around and play our part." That's what the characters do in this story. They stick around and play their part. Family is not only what we are born into - or what is born to us - but also those willing to gather around to give us hope.

"Did You Ever Have a Family" can be found at the Park City Library in print, large print and CD versions.