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Steps and Exes: A Novel of Family by Laura…
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Steps and Exes: A Novel of Family

by Laura Kalpakian

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442407,362 (3.57)4
When Celia Westervelt agrees to throw a lavish party to celebrate her daughter's engagement, she invites her entire overextended family--a caustic mixture of "steps and exes" that could explode on the big day.

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For good or for bad, the primary figure in this book sounded a whole lot like me. So that was a little bit strange. She is a woman in middle-age, who once again finds herself surrounded by all of her children and step-children and once-were-step-children and ex-lovers and ex-husbands and all of their extended families. I couldn't help but think of all the times in my life when at least 30 people had a key to my house. And then, about 2/3 through the book, the plot takes a twist that I just somehow never ever ever expected. ( )
  Phyllis.Mann | Jul 13, 2015 |
"Marriage is nothing but a property arrangement between people who have decided to consolidate their assets and register themselves as card-carrying dupes to convention."

"Steps and Exes" was a hit with my book club of women varying in age from 35 to 70-plus. The title refers to the stepchildren, ex-spouses and ex-lovers who remain part of one's molecular family, if not the nuclear family.

"In the molecular family people are connected without being bound. They spindle themselves around shared experiences and affections rather than splashing in the shared gene pool. Families like ours created from the rag ends of other families, molecularly connected to make something entirely different, combined to create a new whole."

On the fictional Isadora Island, Celia Henry runs a bed and breakfast and lives a life unfettered by conventions such as marriage (and fidelity, at times). She teaches her children and step-children to do the same. A cast of well-drawn characters move in and out of Celia's life, eventually revealing that her vision of unfettered love is as romanticized as the fantasy of getting married and living happily ever after.

The depiction of a modern family touched a chord with me. The writing is lively and very funny. Midway through, some dark themes emerge, which only strengthen the narrative. Celia is a strong, strong woman, and I really enjoyed this book.

One woman in my book group said she'll recommend this book to everyone, and another one said she liked it as much as "The Help." ( )
  keneumey | Jun 4, 2014 |
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