WE ONLY KNOW SO MUCH by Elizabeth Crane


Email this review


Crane delivers a unique and dizzying tale that delves into the emotional life of a family teetering on the brink of everything.

Best known for her three short story collections, Crane (You Must Be This Happy to Enter, 2008, etc.) graduates to novels with a surprisingly centered and cohesive debut about a family that is, as their self-centered teenage daughter would phrase it, “losing their shit.” Our most promising and emotionally truthful character is Jean Copeland, seemingly dutiful wife to husband Gordon and equally devoted mother to teenage daughter Priscilla and 9-year-old romantic Otis. But we soon learn that life in the Copeland family is not at all what it might seem on the surface. In fact, Jean is having a joyful affair with James, a member of her book club who quietly suffers from disabling depression. Gordon is dealing with his own challenges, as the self-professed expert in nearly everything is rapidly losing his memory. Priscilla thinks her future lies in reality TV shows, but that’s mostly beside the point—“First of all, Priscilla is a bitch,” Crane candidly writes. Otis’ story is sweetest as he pines away for a classmate, toiling away at heart-shaped crosswords to win her heart. The beauty in Crane’s novel is her sweep from acid commentary to heartfelt portrayal of real-life loves and losses. “Review: difficult daughter, know-it-all dad, son sweet and okay if a little weird, mom delayed potential/having affair, great grand-mother bitchy, granddad losing it. So we know where we’re starting,” writes Crane. But Crane’s offhand style is woven seamlessly with heartbreaking arcs like the suicide of Jean’s lover, Gordon’s inappropriate Facebook stalking of a former classmate, and Jean’s elegant dismissal of her daughter’s drama. “God didn’t punk you, daughter,” adds Jean in an internal monologue. “Life is what you make it. Nobody knows this better than me.”

Life in a snow globe made from dashed dreams and misunderstandings.

Pub Date: June 12th, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-06-209947-1
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Perennial/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 2012


FictionTURF by Elizabeth Crane
FictionTHE HISTORY OF GREAT THINGS by Elizabeth Crane
by Elizabeth Crane
FictionYOU MUST BE THIS HAPPY TO ENTER by Elizabeth Crane
by Elizabeth Crane


FictionSHE POURED OUT HER HEART by Jean Thompson
by Jean Thompson