HAPPY FAMILY by Tracy Barone


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In her debut novel, screenwriter, playwright, and film producer Barone uses a wide lens to capture Cheri Matzner's life, from a precarious beginning to a confident, peaceful middle age.

A novel in four parts, the story begins with a list of significant news items from Aug. 5, 1962, followed by the scene of a teenage mother abandoning her baby shortly after giving birth. Miriam ducks out of the Trenton Family Clinic with her IV line filled with stolen morphine tucked under her dress. The baby is almost forgotten as readers are introduced to the fully, and humorously, characterized supporting players who take responsibility for her. Infant Cheri makes her way to a home where she is deeply loved and desperately wanted (by at least one parent), but the rest is not a happily-ever-after tale. Though Part II skips ahead 40 years, Cheri's significant experiences, as well as the events that influenced her from childhood through adulthood, are unpacked in the same comprehensive detail as her first weeks of life. The Matzner family story branches out into the fantastic and scandalous, yet the book is rooted in realistic, Everywoman-style struggles. Despite her momentous beginning, adult Cheri's dealings with career disappointment, relationship failure, and fertility struggles put her on a level with any average 21st-century woman. The novel is never rushed—every character, every setting, and every scene gets its due, painstakingly elaborated on so that the full picture of Cheri's life and those who made it is clear and complete.

Cinematic in its scope, this novel takes readers on a broad, deep, and poignant journey alongside a tough, admirable woman and the varied characters who populate her life.

Pub Date: May 24th, 2016
ISBN: 978-0-316-34260-5
Page count: 400pp
Publisher: Lee Boudreaux/Little, Brown
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 2016