I’ve yet to meet an Orenda Book that I didn’t love, so when A Modern Family came around I was only a little hesitant that it fell outside of my typical preferred genres. True to form, this baby quietly delivered a heavy punch that left me questioning why I insist on putting my reading preferences into tidy little boxes, because clearly that type of behavior benefits no one. Deeply emotional and undeniably complex A Modern Family explores the deceptive simplicity of navigating everyday life. While it may lack the action that I typically crave in my literary escapes it has a powerful impact and an emotional magnetism that will leave you shattered – an absolute must read!
Title: A Modern Family
Author: Helga Flatland
Publisher: Orenda Books
Publication Date: June 21, 2019
Genre: Fiction, Contemporary Fiction, Literary Fiction
Themes: Family, Relationships
My Rating: 4.5/ 5
When Liv, Ellen and Håkon, along with their partners and children, arrive in Rome to celebrate their father’s seventieth birthday, a quiet earthquake occurs: their parents have decided to divorce.
Shocked and disbelieving, the siblings try to come to terms with their parents’ decision as it echoes through the homes they have built for themselves, and forces them to reconstruct the shared narrative of their childhood and family history.
A bittersweet novel of regret, relationships and rare psychological insights, A Modern Family encourages us to look at the people closest to us a little more carefully, and ultimately reveals that it’s never too late for change…
First, I must offer my apologies. As the vast majority of the tours I take part in are based out of the UK, I always schedule my posts well in advance in order to avoid the Canadian lull in online traffic. Yet, when I took a quick coffee at work to check the blog and do the media thing, I was horrified to discover that WordPress had failed to publish my scheduled post – and not just that, but that the publish feature was not cooperating with my phone either. Cue the panic! Especially since I adored this book and was so excited to share the book love. It may have had to wait until my lunch break, but I am none the less excited to share this review!
When what starts out as family vacation rapidly transforms into an announcement that parents Sverre and Torill are ending their nearly 40 years of marriage, their grown children Liv, Ellen, and Hakon are forced to reconsider their perceptions and relations from perspectives that were previously unfathomable. Told in split narrative between the children, this novel highlights how a singular event can affect disparate individuals so differently as a result of their long-held perceptions and lived experiences. It brings to the forefront the reality the stark contrast of personal assessment against outward appearances, and the reality that our carefully constructed facades rarely reflect our inner truths.
I was certainly more drawn to the experiences of Liv and Ellen, and found both of their emotions, memories, and shared experiences to be deeply touching and heartfelt. Everything from their sibling rivalries to Ellen’s envy of her older sister rang true, and the result was a deeply relatable and touching experience. You feel every ounce of love, jealousy, sadness, hope and despair as if the emotions were passed through a resonating chamber and I walked away feeling as though I had been shaken to my core. This feeling was only heightened by Liv’s painful internalization of her emotions and the ensuing frustration the result from her inability to understand that her process was one unto herself and therefore impossible for her loved ones to grapple with. Now add into the fact that Liv had been using her parents’ relationship as a barometer for her own success as a mother and wife, and you can’t help but sympathize as she struggles to make sense of her life.
Ellen on the other hand, is much less guarded in her emotions, and the depth of her response will leave you bereft. When combined with her persistent struggles to have a baby, her grief over the family breakdown is raw, and at times, insurmountable. Personally, I found her passages the most difficult to read as she struggled with her personal demons, constructed isolation, and desperate need for support from family entrenched in their own complicated processes.
And yet, the bonds that tie and the depth of the love shared between the siblings really shines through – and so too does the persistence of suspicion and long-held grudges that are inevitably carried over from our younger years. As a result, I felt that the characters were beautifully individual, well thought out, relatable and believable. This story is not full of action in the truest sense of the word but the impact is nonetheless profound. It focuses on individual experiences, emotions, and the psychology of the situation in a way that will leave you breathless and bereft. Add into the equation the beautiful poetic prose of Flatland’s and you have an absolute winner.
Read it my friends, your summer TBR will thank you.
About The Author
Helga Flatland is already one of Norway’s most awarded and widely read authors. Born in Telemark, Norway, in 1984, she made her literary debut in 2010 with the novel Stay If You Can, Leave If You Must, for which she was awarded the Tarjei Vesaas’ First Book Prize. She has written four novels and a children’s book and has won several other literary awards. Her fifth novel, A Modern Family, was published to wide acclaim in Norway in August 2017, and was a number-one bestseller. The rights have subsequently been sold across Europe and the novel has sold more than 100,000 copies.
Many thanks to Anne Carter at Orenda Books for inviting me to join in this tour and for providing a copy in exchange for an honest review.