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STRANGER, FATHER, BELOVED by Taylor Larsen Kirkus Star


by Taylor Larsen

Pub Date: July 12th, 2016
ISBN: 978-1-5011-2475-4
Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Larsen makes a noteworthy debut with a family drama that explores loyalty, lies, and well-being.

Michael James and his wife, Nancy, have a seemingly envious life. They have a Cape-style home on the Rhode Island peninsula, two beautiful children, and friends and neighbors who socialize like family. Yet their perfect life is full of pleasantries hiding lies and discomfort. Michael suffers from neurotic paranoia, and his medication no longer seems to ease his symptoms, particularly when combined with alcohol. During a dinner party, Michael’s behavior begins to shift into unpredictable territory. His delusions lead him to believe his wife would be better off married to John, one of their party guests. Michael not only works to bring his wife and John together, but he also befriends John to the point where the two men are inseparable. Larsen’s attention to characterization makes this a compelling story. The story is told in the third person, but each chapter hews to a different character's viewpoint, offering varying perspectives on the family's life. Michael’s struggle with anxiety reveals his motivation for wanting Nancy to be with John, while Nancy’s experiences shed light on her own challenges in a complicated marriage. Their daughter, Ryan, provides an interesting perspective as the outsider who witnesses the demise of the marriage while struggling with her own relationship woes. The setting is very much a character in its own right, with Larsen’s precise descriptions of the quaint community enhancing the mood. At the heart of this novel is a family of individuals working to keep everyone else happy, even if it means sacrificing something of themselves in the process. Larsen captures every nuance with finesse, every emotion with grace.

An emotionally intelligent family drama that examines the breaking point of a marriage.