Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

Familiar by J. Robert Lennon

Familiar (original 2012; edition 2012)

by J. Robert Lennon

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
138886,938 (3.27)3
Authors:J. Robert Lennon
Info:Graywolf Press (2012), Edition: Limited Edition, Hardcover
Collections:Your library
Tags:2012, Fiction, Indiespensable Books, Parallel Universes, Parenting, Marriage, Family, Gaming

Work details

Familiar by J. Robert Lennon (2012)


Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 3 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
Elisa is driving back from visiting her son’s grave when the crack in her windshield disappears. In fact, most of her life is different: her job, her children, her marriage. She wasn’t particularly happy in her old life, and she doesn’t seem to like this one much better. This is one of those literary-fiction type novels where no one really seems to like each or make any kind of real connection. The novelty of the plot carried me along to the end but I was ultimately unsatisfied. ( )
  jholcomb | Oct 19, 2014 |
A strange book that I expected to like more than I did, because it was sort of about the nature of reality: a woman whose son has died suddenly finds herself plopped into a different world, where her son hasn't died, she has a different job, she's not having an affair, etc. etc. My problem was that I found all the characters, including her, rather despicable. Her new family was so dysfunctional, and no one seemed to have the capacity or wisdom to pull themselves out of it. And the ending didn't really pull the whole thing together. ( )
  bobbieharv | May 3, 2013 |
A naturalistically written book that plays with the true strangeness of memory, character, and perception. About halfway through I started to worry that the author was heading off toward some cheap alternate universe story cliches but Familiar is a much more thoughtful novel than that. It is genuinely disturbing in the ways it subtly questions the comfort of our memories and our settled evaluations of our life events. As the story progresses, it is decreasingly clear what of the protagonist's problems are external or internal, but by the end it does seem that no matter what has "really" happened, it's herself she has to deal with.

I think this is one of my top four books read this year. It beat out The Marriage Plot by a mile. It makes a good double feature with Julian Barnes' Sense of An Ending, but I felt let down at the end by the Barnes novel (much as I love some of his work). Familiar told me less at the finish, and said more. ( )
  scatterall | Apr 10, 2013 |
Strange but oddly mesmerizing. Intense, 40-something Elisa is driving home from visiting her son's grave six hours away, when she realizes the crack in her windshield has vanished, she's driving a whole different car, and seems to have gained a bit of weight and is wearing office clothes. When she gets home she finds that the past is different in her memory than it is for others. Has she slipped into a parallel universe, or suffered some sort of psychotic breakdown? The novel examines a marriage and a woman under stress, and what might happen to someone given a second chance in this way. It's rather unsettling. ( )
  amanderson | Mar 31, 2013 |
Imagine driving along the highway, when the familiar crack in the windshield of your car suddenly disappears. You refocus on the road only to realize everything is different. Everything. Your car, your clothes, even you. Beside you is a folder from a conference you don't remember attending.

Elisa's day is not going well. She decides she has no choice but to follow the road home. Her husband, Derek, is still listed in her phone.

"The mailbox is the same and the driveway she pulls into is the same. But the house is not.

"It is white, for one thing. It's supposed to be a pale yellow-gray. It had been white when they bought it, but they changed it. The rhododendrons are gone, replaced by a row of sculpted yews. Or rather the yews they tore out a few years ago are still there. The grass, to which she had always been indifferent, is healthy and trim, and the pink dogwood, the one that had seemed certain to die but then rallied and came back to life, that dogwood is gone and in its place stands a Japanese maple."

This is Elisa's story. But it is not just a story of alternative universes. It is a poignant look at a dysfunctional family, a marriage on the rocks. And the funny thing is that the author never intended to go there!

"The crazy thing is, I didn't want to write about parenthood. At all.... I'd envisioned Familiar as an oblique, rather detached, bit of literary sci-fi, something spare and enigmatic....It wasn't until draft three that I fully accepted that I was writing a novel about the psychological effects of parenthood....Elisa Brown is given a second chance, and her reaction, at least at first, is to long, terribly, for the tragic life she left behind. We are invested in our illusions--I wanted to explore what might happen if this particular one were stripped away."

Loved this book! ( )
3 vote Berly | Jan 27, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
It runs deep in life, the feeling that we have wandered down some corridor just alongside the one where we truly belong. An inattentive step or two and already we have traveled too far. The door has disappeared. Our place in the world has become irrecoverable. The past half-decade of American letters has seen the translation or publication of a little pack of kindred novels intended to reproduce this sensation, nearly all of them fascinating. Call it the literature of the ontological wrong turn. Some of its representatives have been issued to great gales of attention, like “1Q84,” by Haruki Murakami, or “Remainder,” by Tom McCarthy, others to the keen enthusiasm of a few lucky explorers, like “Metropole,” by Ferenc Karinthy, or (by my lights the secret masterpiece of the field) “The Other City,” by Michal Ajvaz. To that beguiling list add J. Robert Lennon’s allusive and mysterious new novel, “Familiar,” his ninth book and one of his finest.
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Series (with order)
Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
After the death of his mother, he had spent five years in the house of his brother. It was not from what he said but the way he said it that his enormous animosity toward the domineering, cold, and unfriendly nature of his brother became evident.
Then, in short, not very pregnant sentences, he related that he had a friend now who very much loved and admired him. Following this communication, there was a prolonged silence. A few days later he reported a dream: he saw himself in a strange city with his friend, except that the face of his friend was different.

—Wilhelm Reich, Character Analysis
First words
She's driving.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Publisher series
Original language

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English


Book description
Haiku summary

No descriptions found.

"Elisa Brown is on a long drive home [after visiting her son's grave] when the crack in her windshield vanishes. She notices other changes too. Her body is curvier; her clothes and car are different. Back home, she has a new job, a sturdier marriage, and disturbingly altered sons. Has she had a psychotic break? Or entered a parallel universe? Her quest for answers hinges on seeing herself as she really is--something that might be impossible for Elisa, or for anyone."--P. [4] of cover.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 2 descriptions

Quick Links

Swap Ebooks Audio
24 wanted2 pay1 pay

Popular covers


Average: (3.27)
0.5 1
2 4
2.5 2
3 5
3.5 5
4 6
5 3


An edition of this book was published by Audible.com.

See editions

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.


Help/FAQs | About | Privacy/Terms | Blog | Contact | LibraryThing.com | APIs | WikiThing | Common Knowledge | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | 97,302,099 books! | Top bar: Always visible