Publisher: Lake Union
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
On a cozy street in Philadelphia, three neighboring families have become the best of friends. They can’t imagine life without one another—until one family outgrows their tiny row house. In a bid to stay together, a crazy idea is born: What if they tear down the walls between their homes and live together under one roof? And so an experiment begins.
Celia and Mark now have the space they need. But is this really what Celia’s increasingly distant husband wants? Stephanie embraces the idea of one big, happy family, but has she considered how it may exacerbate the stark differences between her and her husband, Chris? While Hope always wanted a larger family with Leo, will caring for all the children really satisfy that need?
Behind closed doors, they strive to preserve the closeness they treasure. But when boundaries are blurred, they are forced to question their choices…and reimagine the true meaning of family.
The idea of a communal family intrigued me right away, maybe because it’s so far out of my own comfort zone and something I would NEVER consider in a million years. Six friends and neighbors decide to go ahead and take a chance after one family wants to move in order to have more space. This was such a compulsive read for me, I was surprised by how quickly I was wrapped up in their lives.
There are seven different points of view here, I know that sounds like too many, but it truly works seamlessly here. Mark and Celia have three kids and both have demanding careers. They are the ones that initially want to move, but they change their minds after Mark has a serious health scare. Stephanie and Chris have one child and both work as well. They’re happy with their son as an only child, but also intrigued by the idea of giving him a larger, untraditional family. Hope and Leo also have one daughter and Leo is a sommelier while Hope stays at home. They’ve been trying to have another child for two years and are thrilled to expand their family anyway they can. Lastly, there is Nikki the new neighbor on their block.
Of course things get messy and complicated pretty fast, but the way things got muddled shocked me. Lines get blurred and boundaries get crossed as three separate families try to merge into one. Large family dynamics are very different than those of a single family unit, and many relationships are put to the test. The women have always been extremely close, but events drive a wedge between them. The men love to get together for a beer or an occasional guys night out, but when things get complex, they feel the after effects as well. Then there are the always convoluted male and female relationships, especially when secrets are being shared, and NOT always between spouses.
This was a provocative read, but one with heart and great characterization. It explores parenthood, marriage, work woes and friendships, all in an interesting way. What truly defines a family? Can a non traditional family really work, to the benefit of both the adults and the children? This is especially difficult as they’re keeping this arrangement under wraps in order to avoid judgment. This was one that grabbed me from the start, at no point did I want to put it down. I’m wowed that this was LeBan and DePino’s first collaboration and am desperately hoping it’s not their last!
Overall rating: 5/5
Thanks to Lake Union and Little Bird Publicity for my review copy.