This is far removed from my normal reading material, not crime, not horror, not dystopia. Rather this is a literary tale about the changing dynamics of a family after they converge in Rome to celebrate the patriarch’s seventieth birthday, only to discover that he and the matriarch are divorcing.
Liv, Ellen and Håkon, are the grown children of the couple, who with their partners and children come to Rome for their father’s birthday. Stunned by the news of their parents divorce, they are forced to reflect on the narratives of their childhood, the tales they have long told themselves, their recollections of their past and their sense of identity as a family.
As with all adults, each of the three has their own issues and preoccupations in life; each has their own personality and temperament, and all this helps determine how they react to the news. Each reacts in very different ways, ranging from rage (Liv), through indifference (Ellen) and empathy (Håkon). Of course, all this is further complicated by their own relationships, with each other, and with their own spouses and children.
All of us like to people watch - on the beach, in an airport, in a restuarant or shopping mall - and when we do we wonder what is occurring in those people’s lives. We all have our dramas and conflicts and that’s what this book is really about: an ordinary family, regular people, how their lives rupture when their parents drop a bombshell and how they must navigate the aftermath to try and regain something akin to normality.
A Modern Family is a beautifully written novel, bittersweet, moving and poignant. This is a story of love, regret, and the hidden tensions that lie beneath the surface of all human relationships. It’s a wise novel of great insight.
4 out of 5 stars