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Did You Ever Have a Family by Bill Clegg
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Did You Ever Have a Family (original 2015; edition 2016)

by Bill Clegg (Author)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,0539213,970 (3.97)119
On the eve of her daughter's wedding, June Reid's life is completely devastated when a shocking disaster takes the lives of her daughter, her daughter's fiancé, her ex-husband, and her boyfriend, Luke--her entire family, all gone in a moment. And June is the only survivor. Alone and directionless, June drives across the country, away from her small Connecticut town. In her wake, a community emerges, weaving a beautiful and surprising web of connections through shared heartbreak. From the couple running a motel on the Pacific Ocean where June eventually settles into a quiet half-life, to the wedding's caterer whose bill has been forgotten, to Luke's mother, the shattered outcast of the town--everyone touched by the tragedy is changed as truths about their near and far histories finally come to light.… (more)
Member:alizarin
Title:Did You Ever Have a Family
Authors:Bill Clegg (Author)
Info:Gallery/Scout Press (2016), Edition: Reprint, 320 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:*****
Tags:None

Work details

Did You Ever Have a Family by Bill Clegg (2015)

  1. 00
    The Untelling by Tayari Jones (BookshelfMonstrosity)
    BookshelfMonstrosity: The characters in these novels are haunted by the sudden accidental deaths of family members. Dealing with grief and survivor's guilt, they slowly learn to bear the pain and find new meaning in life. Both are bittersweet and haunting stories.… (more)
  2. 11
    The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt (vwinsloe)
    vwinsloe: A book about trauma, guilt and complicated grief. The effect of secrets and drugs on lives and families.
  3. 00
    The Shore by Sara Taylor (charl08)
    charl08: Similar style of linked narration by different members of a community, with convincing distinctive voices, dealing with theme of family.
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» See also 119 mentions

English (91)  Piratical (1)  All languages (92)
Showing 1-5 of 91 (next | show all)
What an intriguing tale. Told from multiple points of view--primarily two women, each of whom has lost their grown child in an explosion that took place in a small Connecticut town, but also by a teenager, townspeople, women who run on a motel on the Pacific Northwest--it is in many ways the story of the town itself. Fulltime residents are essentially the servant class to the wealthy part-timers who come from the city to stay for long weekends, but not to put down roots. Outsiders are begrudgingly tolerated (if not welcomed) and people who are different are barely tolerated at all. But times are changing, and the town is contrasted with the coastal community to which several of the characters are drawn. There is plenty of mystery here: was the explosion an accident? Who was responsible? How do you recover from devastating loss? Beautifully told, I was fascinated by each character's voice and they linger in my memory, as I wonder what happens next. ( )
  AnaraGuard | Nov 1, 2020 |
Note that the title is not a question -- it is more the beginning to an anecdote that begins innocently enough, but soon finds itself on unstable ground. The main character, June Reid had a family, but they are all tragically taken from her in a gas explosion on the morning of her daughter's wedding. Daughter Lolly, fiance Will, ex-husband Adam and her current boyfriend Luke were all in the house and she was out on the lawn when it happened. It makes you wince just to imagine it. But the story is parceled out bit-by-bit which makes it readable rather than completely lamentable. Various characters have a say: June, Luke's mother Lydia, Will's parents and a variety of others who seem very incidental until you realize just how tightly woven the human race can be in an interesting case of 6 degrees of separation. The tragedy takes place in CT, and June flees immediately after the last funeral, west to Washington to grieve and try to make sense of the whole thing. Some characters and their stories remain grounded in the small CT town, and others are added to the mix in Moclips, the tiny community on the edge of the Pacific Ocean. Through the journey, the story is revealed and it has some captivating twists. Tough subject matter, but the overall tale of healing and facing reality is uplifting. One of the characters, Cissy, reflects: "Rough as life can be, I know in my bones we are supposed to stick around and play our part...Someone down the line might need to know you got through it. Or maybe someone you won't see coming will need you...And it might be you never know the part you played, what it meant to someone to watch you make your way each day. Maybe someone or something is watching us all make our way. I don't think we get to know why. (p. 291) ( )
  CarrieWuj | Oct 24, 2020 |
Well, everyone dies
their moms are sad about it
other people too. ( )
  Eggpants | Jun 25, 2020 |
Very sad, but more subtle than I expected from the harrowing premise. Tucked into a tragic story are several sweet connections and meditations on making the most of a life. ( )
  nancyjean19 | Jun 3, 2020 |
Looking at other reviews, I see that many others struggled with how to rate this book. The struggle derives largely from the formula Clegg used to construct the book.
The book's many chapters are all headed with a name. Some of the names are of characters already introduced in the book, others are characters not previously mentioned. Sometimes the chapters are written in first person, other times in third. In every case, much of the information to be derived from the chapters comes from interpritting inplecations of statements made by the character whose name heads the chapter. Of course, there are more direct statements as well. Through the first few of these chapters, the reader has to do a lot of work just to figure out what is going on in this unusual structure and then to figure out who is who when character names are used within the chapters and as chapter headings.
In spite of the difficulty that I initially felt as I moved through the book, in the end I enjoyed both the format and the content of the novel.
Beyond the format issue are the plot, theme, setting, character development and other aspects of the novel. For these, this is an amazing novel for a first time author.
The story is skillfully crafted and kept me engaged. I'd almost all it "a page turner."
The novel works on two levels. On the first, it is a story of how people live through and handle enormous traedy, especially within the context and background of the life they have lived before the tragedy occurred. Clegg really does a good job of showing how a character's "present" is the product of his or her "past."
On the second level, the story is really a kind of detective story. And here, too, there are two things to sleuth. First, understanding the characters, and second, finding out what actually caused the tragedy upon which the story is based..
All told, this is a really good book. The difficulty of the format keeps me, and other reviewers, from giving it five stars, but it would have been pretty easy for me to rate it higher. It is a good book, a story well told, and a memorable reading experience.
( )
  Paul-the-well-read | Apr 18, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 91 (next | show all)
Catastrophe and misfortune are a novelist’s friends, dramatic devices that provide a plot and let characters demonstrate their range. Tragedies tunnel through life, and the suspense comes from seeing how these spaces will be filled. This is what excites us about books that begin with a sorrowful bang. Grief is sad — we know that — but what now? How will these particular characters respond? What else do you have to give us?

In his masterly first novel, “Did You Ever Have a Family,” Bill Clegg gives us June Reid, a small Connecticut town and a fire on the eve of June’s daughter’s wedding that obliterates everything: June’s home, her boyfriend, her ex-husband, her daughter and her daughter’s fiancé. How could anyone react to such unfathomable loss? June responds by making a zombielike crawl west to a seaside motel in Moclips, Wash., where she now hides, rarely leaving her room.
 
Like Anne Tyler, another contender for this year’s Man Booker, Clegg is a master of investing the mundane with what John Updike called “its beautiful due”. ....What sustains us in the end is sympathy, kindness, the electrical hum of connection with others, however faint. Clegg takes occasional missteps –the unlikely redemption offered by an unsent letter accidentally discovered seems like cheating – but for the most part this is a wonderful and deeply moving novel, which compels us to look directly into the dark night of our deepest fears and then quietly, step by tiny step, guides us towards the first pink smudges of the dawn.
 

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Bill Cleggprimary authorall editionscalculated
Bragg, BillCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
You should have
   heard him, 
      his voice was
unforgettable, irresistible, his voice
was an imaginary garden woven through with fragrance.

Did you ever have a family?
   Their eyes are closed.
That's how I know
   we're there
       inside it, 
it's made of sound and steam
that weaves between dark
dining room, bright kitchen.
We're there because I'm hungry, 
and we'll all be eating soon
        together, and the hunger's sweet

Alan Shapiro, "Song and Dance"
Dedication
For Van, and for our families
First words
He wakes to the sound of sirens. Many, loud, and very near.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Wikipedia in English (1)

On the eve of her daughter's wedding, June Reid's life is completely devastated when a shocking disaster takes the lives of her daughter, her daughter's fiancé, her ex-husband, and her boyfriend, Luke--her entire family, all gone in a moment. And June is the only survivor. Alone and directionless, June drives across the country, away from her small Connecticut town. In her wake, a community emerges, weaving a beautiful and surprising web of connections through shared heartbreak. From the couple running a motel on the Pacific Ocean where June eventually settles into a quiet half-life, to the wedding's caterer whose bill has been forgotten, to Luke's mother, the shattered outcast of the town--everyone touched by the tragedy is changed as truths about their near and far histories finally come to light.

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