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A Friend of the Family by Lauren Grodstein
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A Friend of the Family (edition 2010)

by Lauren Grodstein

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4102725,944 (3.48)17
Member:TimBazzett
Title:A Friend of the Family
Authors:Lauren Grodstein
Info:Algonquin Books (2010), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 320 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:*****
Tags:fiction, family relationships, jewish families, lauren grodenstein

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A Friend of the Family by Lauren Grodstein

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I absolutely loved this book. It's a struggle for every parent -- how far should you intervene in your children's lives, especially when you fear they're making choices that will destroy their futures. The central character, Dr. Pete, is a family practice doctor with a son who dropped out of college to pursue a career as an artist and who then becomes involved with the 30-year-old daughter of Dr. Pete's best friend, who as teenager killed her prematurely delivered baby in a bathroom stall. And by the way, Dr. Pete has also never gotten over the crush he's had on his best friend's wife since they all met in college. To make matters worse, he's facing a medical malpractice suit because a young woman under his care died. That's quite a dramatic stew -- and Grodstein explores it all with wonderful sophistication and not the least bit of melodrama. She does an amazing job examining all the issues -- whether someone who's made a horrible mistake can ever redeem their lives and how much parents should interfere in their children's lives without running the risk of just making everything worse. I loved her earlier novel, Reproduction is the Flaw of Love (Delta Fiction), which is also told from a man's perspective. She does a great job of getting inside men's heads. (There was only minor detail she got wrong, which I think most men would know. While shooting around a basketball, Dr. Pete -- who I think is supposed to be about 6 feet 2 -- dunks. That's not something most guys of that height, and especially those in their early 50s as Dr. Pete is, could do.) ( )
1 vote johnluiz | Aug 6, 2013 |
Peter and Elaine Dizinoff have been friends with Joe and Iris Stern since college. Living the perfect life in a wealthy New Jersey neighborhood, their children have grown up together and they have shared everything. However, sometimes the wrong decisions can be made for the right reasons...

Pete has spent his whole life working towards building an adulthood that would be, by all measures, judged successful. And in nearly every respect, he has accomplished just that: a skilled and intuitive internist with a loyal following of patients, Pete has built a thriving medical practice in Round Hill, New Jersey. He has a loving and devoted wife in Elaine; a network of close friends, a comfortable suburban status, and an impressive house with a good view from the porch.

Pete and Elaine have only one child, and Pete has pinned all his hopes on his son Alec. Pete only wants the best for Alec, and to that end, he and Elaine have done everything within their power to make his life successful. They've afforded him every opportunity, bailed him out of close calls with the law, and, despite Alec's lack of interest, have even managed to get him accepted into a good college.

But Pete never counted on the wild card: Laura, Joe and Iris Stern's daughter. Ten years older than Alec, irresistibly beautiful, with a history so shocking that it's never spoken of, Laura sets her sights on Alec, who falls under her spell. And with that, Pete sees his dreams for his son not only unraveling but completely destroyed. With the belief that he has only the best intentions at heart, he sets out to derail the romance. But Pete could never have foreseen how, in the process, he might shatter his whole life and devastate his entire family.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book! It was a gripping plot that was absolutely believable to me. Quite a book! I give this book an A+! and have put Lauren Grodstein's other books on my Wish List. ( )
  moonshineandrosefire | Jul 20, 2013 |
Peter, a successful doctor in middle-age, runs into two serious problems almost simultaneously: his son drops out of college to become a painter, and he is charged with malpractice when he fails to properly diagnose a fatal illness in a patient. Faced with the censure of his neighbors, Peter clearly sees the parallel to how he treated his best friend Joe when Joe’s daughter Laura had her own very public troubles.

Laura’s problem was more dramatic than Peter or Alec’s. As a teenager in high school, she got pregnant, carried the baby for six months, then delivered in a bathroom stall at the local public library. Before the baby had taken its first breath, Laura killed it by breaking its skull over her knee.

Peter, appalled by Laura’s crime, was unable to be the supportive friend that Joe needed during Laura’s trial. More than a decade has passed since Laura killed her child, yet Peter carries a lingering anger because he could never fully express how appalled he was by Laura’s crime, and also deep guilt for having failed in his duties as a friend.

The situation gets worse when Alec (only 21) is wrapped up in a romantic relationship with Laura (who is 30 now). When Alec threatens to run away to Paris with Laura, Peter finds all his old feelings about Laura coming back in full force, combined now with panic and fear about his son’s future. By confronting Laura, he manages to end the threat she poses to his son. However, in the process he damages his marriage, ruins his relationship with his oldest friends, and drives his son away.

Like many recent novels about family secrets, this one waits until the very end to reveal the details of what Peter did to bring on the malpractice suit, and the full story of what exactly happened when Laura killed her baby. The broad outlines of these events are clear from early on. The issues that Peter faces, of strained relationships with his friends, guilt about his work, and anxiety over his son’s future, will speak to many people who find themselves in the same situation. The murky morals and tough decisions are real and compelling, but to me the story was ordinary. ( )
  MlleEhreen | Apr 3, 2013 |
Holy shit. This book was bananas. B&N had this as their deal of the day last week, and I bought it on a whim, thinking I could eat the 1.99$ if it turned out to be horrible. Jesus, was I wrong.

I started this book this afternoon, in a moment of sheer boredom. I've been in such a reading rut lately, and I keep picking up and putting down books like its my job. This one hooked me from the first page, and I had to stay up late to finish it.

I had no idea what to expect going into this novel, so I'm not even going to discuss the plot, as it was incredible to have it unfold before my eyes, but I will say that it was thrilling and heart wrenching and horrible and fascinating. I couldn't put it down. I've seen some reviews calling it an American Classic and I can't help but agree. 4.5 stars. ( )
  aelizabethj | Apr 1, 2013 |
Really an interesting book to read---I liked the main character immediately and the layers and interrelationships of the different families were beautifully written. I found a little confusion because of the jumping around in the time line and although it was probably exactly what the author was trying to present in terms of Peter's, the main character, own thoughts as he tried to work through his confusions---it wound up making me say, "oops" every now and then when I realized we had suddenly gone to a different period of time---and then back again with no warning. ( )
  nyiper | Dec 31, 2012 |
Showing 1-5 of 27 (next | show all)
Grodstein is a terrific storyteller and an even better ventriloquist. She beautifully captures Pete’s sly self-deceptions: the man-of-the-people persona that masks his deeply rooted elitism, the liberal pose that hides an almost pathological conservatism.
 
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For Nathaniel and in memory of his great-grandparents
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These days, when people ask how I'm doing - some of them still ask, you'd be surprised - I shrug and say, as manfully as I can, "Much better than you'd think."
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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After his best friend's daughter, Laura, sets her sights on his son, Alec, Pete Dizinoff sees his plans for a perfect son not just unraveling but being destroyed completely and sets out to derail the romance.

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