Tutte le famiglie felici sono simili le une alle altre ogni famiglia infelice infelice a modo suo, diceva Tolstoj E, infatti, questo romanzo ci racconta il modo in cui sono infelici gli Eberhardt, una famiglia americana cattolica, che l autrice ci fa conoscere e seguire a partire dagli anni 50 sino a giungere agli anni 90 Un padre, una madre e sei figli, di cui uno autistico Oggettivamente, non posso lamentarmi di nulla il libro ben scritto, i fatti sono articolati, i personaggi sono presentati da diverse prospettive, la storia naviga tutto sommato abbastanza bene Eppure non sono riuscita ad appassionarmi e mi sono accorta che ogni sera lo prendevo in mano non dico con riluttanza, ma senza entusiasmo s.Non aggiungo altro, perch ulteriori osservazioni da parte mia sarebbero fuor di luogo, dato che non ho motivazioni concrete da portare a supporto.Magari a voi piacer In ogni caso, ve lo auguro. But that s the way it is in a family, isn t it The stories get passed around, polished, embellished Liddie s version or Mack s version changes as it becomes my version And when I tell them, it s not just that the events are different but that they all mean something different too Something I want them to mean Or need them to And of course, there s also the factor of time Of how your perspective, your way of telling the story of seeing it changes as time passes As you change.In the idyllic 1950 s, the Eberhardt family seems to have it all They bought the big house overlooking the park in Chicago, where the dad is a psychologist and the mom stays home with her three beautiful children Until they discover that something is wrong with their youngest, most beautiful child He is autistic, and it sends the family into a tailspin.Dad is angry and retreats into his work Mom is destroyed since the diagnostics of the day place the blame of autism squarely on Mom s shoulders As a result, she conspires to bring three children into the family, trying to make up for the problems of their son.Certainly even then we thought of the family as neatly divided down the middle The first three, Macklin, Lydia and Randall, were the special ones Even those names, we thought, showed greater imagineation, greater involvement on our parents part, than ours did Nina, Mary, Sarah Clearly by that time they had run out of gas.But we didn t necessarily connect any of this with our father s nicknames for us These were embarrassing not because of what they meant which none of us stopped to consider then anyway but because they existed at all Not because they pointed to some quality we shared, but because they pointed to us He called us the unexpected guests or the surprise party He would lower his book and watch us as we passed his study door, the three of us always together Under his high, narrow forehead, his blue eyes had the trick that eyes in certain portraits or photographs do, of seeming to follow you while actually remaining steady, unmoving There they go, the extras, he d say Or, Ah, the fleet s in The Nina, the Pint sized, that Santa Maria We were the little pitchers of health, the coup de grace, the last straws We complained and laughed and whined about it, we told our mother, but it only made him worse.Needless to say, it didn t quite work It does, on the other hand, make for a fascinating family dynamic.This book follows the family through the 60 s and 70 s, even through to adulthood in the 80 s You have a chance to see through the eyes of each of the family members, except for the autistic son, who is in very many ways the center that holds the rest of the family together as well as being the catalyst for change and destruction in their lives.I really, really enjoyed this book I loved that it was set in my home town of Chicago, and found myself daydreaming about the many settings and neighborhoods that were reminiscent of stories my parents had told me about from their youth The author does a fabulous job of bringing the city to life as well as the family the book is centered on.This is very much a character driven novel rather than a plot driven novel It s a family drama, and plays out the childhoods, teenage years, and young adulthoods of the children in the family, from what high school was like in the 1960 s for a girl that didn t fit that era s feminine ideal, to what happened to young men who dropped out of college and were sent to Vietnam, to wives swept up into a culture where swinging was becoming the norm It examines what our place in the family does to us as part of our development Are we expected to be the golden child Were we overlooked in the middle Coddled as the baby It delves into our own expectations of our siblings and parents, and how we can change people with our own perceptions.This book is a little dry in places, but I still found it very hard to put down It s an excellent read. I like Sue Miller, but this is not her best work She is a fabulous writer, and that really shines through in some sections of the book The shifting narration does not always work though when it does, it s quite good I was left feeling that the character motivations were missing here so I never knew why anyone did the things they did, and therefore never really connected with them in any meaningful way Although, the last chapter goes a teeny way toward ameliorating this but it s too little, too late Just okay, not great. Absorbing story of a semi dysfunctional but loving family set in the 60 s and 70 s Several points of view bring different facets of this story to light Sue Miller s style is a bit flowery and metaphor filled than I prefer, but her gift of narrative shines. Sometimes I can be slow to digest a book, slow to come to terms with my feelings about it In this case, when I finished Miller s book back in 2012, I unequivocally gave it four stars there was no question that I was drawn in by her story and intrigued by the family dynamic she portrayed I didn t care for several of the characters, although I appreciated their characterizations, for they were true and bold and agonizingly real to me But it is only after all these months have passed and so many other books have been read, that I truly understand the depth of what Miller accomplished Family Pictures has stuck with me The story of this family the agony, guilt, and shame that exists below the surface of this thing they call life a life that is happening whether they are prepared for it or not deeply resonated with me I keep going back to it Rehashing it Comparing the essence of what was in these pages to other stories And there is only one thing I can conclude from that this is a beautifully tragic work of art Miller has crafted a superbly timed and weighted story each character and emotion finely honed The subtle strains and battles of family life are magnified through the lens of autism in the 1950s Parents and older siblings struggle to accept and endure the new way of life that Randall brings Younger siblings accept their world as one that only exists with Randall in it The dichotomy she fosters is so poignant A worthy read Five stars. I loved The Good Mother and especially While I Was Gone, both by Sue Miller I did not love this one as much and I have been trying to understand why.The story is about a family than about an individual Yes, there is a main character Nina but her life is surrounded by the lives of her parents and siblings, and several chapters are from these other points of view For a while I wondered if we d ever get back to Nina, because I missed her.The controlling force in the story is Nina s older brother Randall Nina was the fourth child, Randall the third Randall had neurological problems They settled on calling him autistic but it sounds like than that Never mind The label is not important What is important is how his disability affected his parents and by extension his siblings.In getting to the seat of it all, Miller weaves back and forth in time Sometimes I felt we were thrown from one age to another, then back again, like a carnival ride She takes in Nina s parents and their parents in her survey, which helps to provide a basis for the action.Randall s parents felt very differently about Randall It appeared to Lainey, his mother, that her husband David blamed her for the defects in this child In response to this belief, Lainey goes on to have three children perfect as a way of sorts of proving that she had nothing to do with it Nina always felt out of it, different, because of this distinction, and her father jokingly referred to the three youngest as the extras , the unexpected guests , the surprise party , the little pitchers of health.Her father was a psychiatrist It appears that he took his profession seriously, extending his listening manner to his family Which contrasted with Lainey s excitable nature At times I was irritated by David s steady, controlled manner, and at others by Lainey s uncontrolled outbursts or her attempts at joking everyone out of a funk I did not become fond of either.Nor did I become especially fond of Nina s older brother Mack, older than Randall but often seen as a kind of twin, the perfect twin He felt pressured to perform at full volume for a while, until he threw it all away, again a response to the existence of Randall.We don t get into the minds of the younger sisters to any great degree We do meet Liddie, the eldest, and recognize that she uses her talent, her voice, to move her farther and farther away from her family and from forming any family of her own.It s a compelling portrait of a family challenged by the one who is least aware of the others For some reason, though, I never really felt sucked into it Towards the end I could hardly wait for the last page, which differs from how I have felt when reading Miller s other books that I would be sad to leave them behind. Technically a 4.5 star rating So touching and beautifully written, with a searingly insightful understanding of the family dynamic, the pain and beauty at its core that shapes who are It was so dead on with its portrayal of the impact fraught family relationships have on all of us I m withholding the last half star only because I wasn t quite fully satisfied with the ending, and didn t understand how why it would be Nina s chosen ending.Miller writes like a better, kinder version of Jonathan Franzen One that s a little less cynical, beautiful, sympathetic and appreciative of life I wept for a long time in her office I wept because I felt so confused by life I was eighteen and its strange mixture of beauty and ugliness Because I was frightened at the idea of giving up what I felt was all I had inside of me my rage at my family, my pain Because I saw that therapy, the terrible cure my father had forced on me, had brought me to this moment, the moment I thought I was evading even as I began to tell the story that contained it I wept because it had released me and helped me in a way I never would have chosen, hadn t in fact consented to I liked that the story is told and explored through the various points of view of different family members but am not quite sure get why the perspective sometimes changed from third to first, specifically when the story returns to Nina s POV but still alternating between a first third person perspective within her POV While I m sure it was intentional and purposeful, I couldn t figure out why and what it was adding, and therefore found it a bit random and distracting.I loved how the book treated Randall While he was inevitably, irrevocably at the center core of the story and established family dynamic, he himself is this vague, undefined character, without personality or specificity It felt heartbreakingly real, that the family could revolve so resolutely around someone who is so not there And this, I suppose, is the power and impact that Miller s and Franzen s familial exploration imparts it reminds us of all the ways that our love can inflict pain and sorrow every day, through the smallest and slightest of actions and words, on all those forced to share our days in close proximity and circumstance. This is the first of Sue Miller s books that I ve read It was a good book but it fell short of a full five stars for me.It was a very real picture of a family broken by mental illness I applaud Miller for her extremely believable portrait of the Eberhardt family which being torn apart by a child with autism The family struggles through accusations from other each other, failing marriages, disruptive children, war, and so on Based on how Miller describes these events in the lives of the Eberhardts, I would have given the book five stars Each major event is described in shifting perspective, which works on occasion but not always These small snapshots of the Eberhardt family is partly where the book derives its name.However, the book was very long winded As I said before, the shifting perspective got confusing on occasion and I would have to recheck who I was reading about at the time The book tended to go off on tangents at times only adding to my confusion The book appeared to be very shallow at times, but giving the time period and setting that may have been intended The characters seemed to lack a little bit, they just weren t real enough to me to reach the height of a five star book.Overall, it wasn t a bad book I liked it, but it was difficult to follow at times and could be long winded The premise of the story was good As strong as the descriptions were of the people, places, and events, it really just fell short of what it really could have been With some humorous and inspiring passages, it wasn t the worst novel I ve ever read, but it really could have been better. Spanning Forty Years, Family Pictures Follows The Conflict Between Husband And Wife, Over A Beautiful Autistic Child Randall Is Both Angel And Demon His Father, David, A Coolly Rational Psychiatrist, Wants Him Placed In An Institution His Mother, Lainey, Insists On Keeping Him At Home Yet It Is Not Just David And Lainey Who Are Struggling To Come To Terms With A Difficult And Unpredictable Child There Are Five Other Children In The Family, Each Of Them Coping With The Dramas And Rifts Surrounding Them, Each Of Them Affected By Randall I quit reading this book just couldn t get into it Too sad Maybe I just couldn t handle the sadness, otherwise I think the writing was good Interesting descriptions, etc But I kept feeling like I just didn t want to pick it up and continue.
See this thread for information.Sue Miller is an American novelist and short story writer who has authored a number of best selling novels Her duties as a single mother left her with little time to write for many years, and as a result she did not publish her first novel until 1986, after spending almost a decade in various fellowships and teaching positions Since then, two of her novels have been made into feature films, and her book While I Was Gone was an Oprah s Book Club pick in 2000.
- Family Pictures
- Sue Miller
- 27 August 2018 Sue Miller