i just finished a book I enjoyed a great deal – A Friend of the Family by Lauren Grodstein. It’s about Pete Dizinoff, a fiftyish New Jersey doctor with a comfortable life – wife, son, successful practice – who watches it all unravel, mostly of his own doing. It all starts when Pete’s son, who has dropped out of college to pursue his art career, gets involved with the daughter of Pete’s best friend Joe. Laura – the daughter – isn’t who Pete would have chosen for his beloved son. She’s ten years older, but more troubling, she has a terrible skeleton in her closet – a teenage pregnancy that ended horrifically. A Friend of the Family is at its core about the lengths to which parents will go to protect the lives they’ve envisioned for their children.
I am not a fifty-year old man, but Lauren Grodstein isn’t either. I was constantly impressed while reading this book with Grodstein’s ability to capture Pete’s thoughts and outlook. The story is told with a great deal of foreboding, which adds tension and drama throughout, and is detailed and compelling. I think Grodstein is an incredibly talented writer. There were a few loose ends at the end of the book that I felt were insufficiently explained, but I otherwise found A Friend of the Family to be very satisfying.
I was reminded while reading A Friend of the Family of two other books about parents trying to protect their kids, with often disastrous results – Breaking Her Fall by Stephen Goodwin (reviewed here) and Trespass by Valerie Martin (reviewed here). All three explore the increasing desperation and pain these parents feel as they watch their children slip away, and while their actions are sometimes deplorable, it’s hard not to sympathize with them.
I highly recommend A Friend of the Family and will be checking out Grodstein’s other books!