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The Family Tree (2004)

by Carole Cadwalladr

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3941450,732 (3.52)24
When Rebecca Monroe - married to Alistair, a scientist who doesn't believe in fate, but rather genetic disposition - discovers that she is pregnant, she begins to question what makes us who we are and whether her own precarious family history will play a role in her future. For Rebecca, everything about her family members begins to take on greater meaning - from simple words said at the breakfast table to the slope of one's forehead of the color of one's eyes. As the women in her family - her deeply loving mother, her hippie aunt, and her sister with an overactive imagination - circle around her as her due date approaches, Rebecca contemplates the generations of women who came before her and how their legacy has shaped her own life.… (more)
  1. 00
    Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides (calmclam)
    calmclam: A lot of the same sweeping family story.
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» See also 24 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 14 (next | show all)
I picked this book from a rustic sale shelf in a tiny mountain town when I was afraid of running out of reading material. As a genealogist, I couldn't resist the title. it turned out to be a riviting story of a three generation British family, set in the late 20th century. The author manages to include family interviews and genetic material before the days of easy DNA tests. This is a complex story, well told, which attempts to answer the question, nature or nurture? It gives one plenty of food for thought.
  herzogm | Oct 22, 2017 |
My sister gave this to me as a Christmas gift. I don't think I would have read it otherwise. I'm not a sunshine and kittens person by any means but I found this story to be startling depressing. The writing was unimpressive and the details surrounding the narrator's grandparent's incestuous relationship were more than I cared for. If there were a sequel to this book I definitely wouldn't read it. ( )
  Heather_Brock | Nov 23, 2016 |
This is quite possibly my favorite read of the year. I'd had this on my bookshelf for quite some time, but didn't feel the urge to pick it up until just recently, and now I regret not having done so sooner. It occurs to me now that this novel reminds me a bit of Jeffrey Eugenides' Middlesex, although with more humor, British-style.

I liked the way this story was pieced together, in alternating time periods, covering three generations. I liked the fact that the main character, Rebecca, seems to be close to my own age, and reading about her childhood in the 70's & 80's brought back memories of my own, with social references to the wedding of Charles and Diana, Who Shot J.R. Ewing, and various others. I liked the format of starting each chapter/section with a dictionary definition, which somehow related to the storyline. I liked the way genetics fit into this story, and I liked the way in which the family members interacted with one another. Really, there were so many things I liked about this novel. The ending was the only thing was slightly disappointing for me. Otherwise, this book was a perfect fit for me.

I listened to this on audio, with Josephine Bailey as an especially competent and engaging reader. I would recommend the audio, although apparently the hard copy has some diagrams and such that would have added to the story. I regret that at one point I owned both a hardcover copy & audio, but chose to give away my hardcover (prior to reading). I now wish I had kept it to add to my permanent collection. ( )
  indygo88 | Dec 19, 2013 |
Thoroughly enjoyed it. It is a funny, quirky, innovative book and jumps very successfully from past to present without losing its reader. Reading it feels almost like remembering things from one's past, it feels that real. ( )
  flydodofly | Mar 17, 2013 |
Rebecca Monroe tells the story of the lives of three generations of women. Her husband is a well-known geneticist and media personality who argues that DNA determines our fate. Rebecca has her doubts about his belief. As she writes about the 1970s of her childhood for her long-delayed graduate thesis, she visits her childhood memories of family life, the everyday and the inexplicable. Rebecca also spends time with her grandmother, who is rapidly declining from Alzheimer's, and learns unexpected secrets. In her examination of the past, Rebecca wrestles with the strength of blood ties, the weight of history and the nature of love. This debut novel is a fresh, intelligent work of fiction. Carole Cadwalladr creates vivid characters and endows the novel with humor and compassion. Her compelling storytelling interweaves the science of genetics with an intergenerational plot, giving literary substance to the debate over nature versus nurture. Cadwalladr hits the bull's-eye with a novel that may appeal to readers who enjoyed Kate Atkinson's Behind the Scenes of the Museum. ( )
1 vote martitia | Apr 10, 2009 |
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To my family. For everything. But especially for not being Monroes.
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The caravan entered our lives like Fate.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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When Rebecca Monroe - married to Alistair, a scientist who doesn't believe in fate, but rather genetic disposition - discovers that she is pregnant, she begins to question what makes us who we are and whether her own precarious family history will play a role in her future. For Rebecca, everything about her family members begins to take on greater meaning - from simple words said at the breakfast table to the slope of one's forehead of the color of one's eyes. As the women in her family - her deeply loving mother, her hippie aunt, and her sister with an overactive imagination - circle around her as her due date approaches, Rebecca contemplates the generations of women who came before her and how their legacy has shaped her own life.

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