I had the distinct pleasure of taking a road trip last month. It was glorious- approximately 3,400 miles of me, the road, and my audiobooks. I was away from family responsibilities here and heading toward a two types of family visits there (parents and sister for one and my Star family for the other). In between I visited chosen family from my online community.
On this recent journey I picked up a favorite audiobook, Just Jorie by Robin Alexander. It’s the perfect book to hear in the car, especially since part of the book also includes a road trip (and they like the same brand of hotel that I do!). Some of my favorite characters in that book are Jorie’s grandmother and great-aunt. They are laugh-out-loud funny (I think there may have been some concerned drivers passing me as I laughed hysterically in my car- I probably looked like I was having a seizure).
For me family and community are interrelated. I live away from where I grew up and have formed familial bonds in the town where I have spent the past 20 years of my adult life. Some are closer, like my best friend, others are more like distant cousins I see at specific events. Loved even though we don’t see each other often. They are all part of my community and thus a part of my extended family.
I love it when this part of real life is reflected in books. These relationships are important to me and affect my life, sometimes whether I want them to or not. When books acknowledge the importance of family and community, I am even further engaged in the story.
Just Jorie and the familial nature of my travels got me thinking about books where I love the family members. These are the books where the protagonist’s family (or families) provide a rich, often funny, occasionally dark frame for the protagonists’ story. These books would not be what they are without the strong familial characters lining the pages.
Ann McMan’s Jericho Series. Between Maddie’s Mom, Syd’s parents and brother, David and sweet Henry we see various forms of family and the joy they can bring. In Goldenrod, the latest in the series, we see the pain family can bring as well. I return to these books again and again (and usually on audiobook because the narrator has a divine voice and style).
Tailor-Made by Yolanda Wallace. This one is brand new and I’ve read it already. Grace’s career has been guided by the family business, her father’s bespoke suit shop. Throughout the book we watch her make choices based on her commitment to her father’s legacy. I especially love the ending of this book, showing us how to honor family and be ourselves at the same time.
In Pieces, G. Benson gives us a teenager without a traditional family. She has a brother who is the center of her world and a cobbled together extended community family. Her friend Ollie is part of a more traditional family unit and her parents add a nice touch of reality and humor to the book. A great story and a really nice tribute to the importance of community wherever you find it.
Two books which broke my heart: Clare Ashton’s After Mrs. Hamilton- sometimes the search for your biological family can affect the family you have chosen in devastating ways.
Mine to Keep by Wendy Hudson- where a search for family can put you in grave danger and yet give you an incredible gift at the same time.
Lest anyone think finding lost family is always bad, Melissa Brayden’s Kiss the Girl gives Brooklyn a new family and me one of my favorite quotes “The ice cream is worth the brain freeze. And isn’t ice cream everything?
How about you- what are your favorite books involving notable family characters?