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Families and Other Nonreturnable Gifts [Paperback]

Claire LaZebnik

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Book Description

Sept. 1 2011
Despite her name, Keats Sedlak is the sanest person in her large, nutty family of brilliant eccentrics. Her parents, both brainy academics, are barely capable of looking after themselves, let alone anyone else, and her two uber-intelligent siblings live on their own planets.

At least she can count on one person in her life, her devoted boyfriend Tom. Down-to-earth and loving, he's the one thing that's kept Keats grounded for the last decade. But when Keats's mother makes a surprise announcement, the entire family is sent into a tailspin. For the first time, Keats can't pick up the pieces by herself. Now she must reevaluate everything she's ever assumed about herself and her family--and make the biggest decision of her life.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: 5 Spot; Original edition (Sept. 1 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0446555029
  • ISBN-13: 978-0446555029
  • Product Dimensions: 20 x 13 x 2 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 272 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #437,777 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"Claire LaZebnik has done it again. Families and Other Nonreturnable Gifts is a gem that's equal parts sugar and spice. LaZebnik will capture you with her winning humor, but she'll keep you with her keen insight. Just make sure that you clear your schedule before you pick it up because you won't be able to put it down."—Jillian Lauren, New York Times­ bestselling author of Some Girls

'Just a great book to read. You can't put it down, because you want to see things work out for Keats and her oddball family."—GenerationGbooks

About the Author

Claire LaZebnik lives in Los Angeles with her TV writer husband and four children. She is the author of the novels Knitting Under the Influence, The Smart One and the Pretty One, and If You Lived Here, You'd Be Home Now.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  12 reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Is our personality determined due to birth order? Sept. 3 2011
By Mary J. Gramlich - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
We all play a specific role in family dynamics whether we admit to it or not. Surviving the landscape of competitive family relationships, overcoming disappointment and jealousy is like walking on a minefield. You are placed by birth order in a position to control, submit, surrender, or dominate and some accept this as destiny while others break out and completely upset the familial apple cart.

Keats Sedlak has always filled her role as destiny preordained but now she is watching her family meltdown as her parent parents' divorce, her father's mortality becomes very apparent, and the family home goes on the selling block. Keats has always had to live up to unattainably high standards with academic parents and siblings that blow her intellectually out of the water but this is perhaps one shove too many. Everyone seems to know what Keats should be doing with her life, and what will fulfill her need for growth personally. They tell her constantly that the man she has been with for 10 years is not good enough for her and their relationship a tad creepy since he is five years older and they started dating when she was 15 stunting her ability to explore other relationships.

Keats has spent her life searching for something to fill the void that distant parents and self-consumed siblings were never able to while at the same time make her own achievements, not an easy task. She thought her boyfriend had taken over her emotional losses but now everything has the potential to be flushed down the toilet and Keats is deciding what stays and what is gone.

If you stand still long enough and do not physically remove yourself from the situation you are in everything will remain as much the same as it does change. You have to be prepared for the ramifications and Keats thinks she is as she prepared to make major life-altering decisions that will affect everyone and not all of them in a positive fashion. So as Keats learns to accept her mother as a single woman on the prowl, her father's judgmental assessments, and her siblings' self-effacing personalities she is also ready to accept the fear and loneliness that comes from decisions and alterations to life's grand scheme of things.

This is a well-written book with a fine-tuned sense of how complicated your family dynamics are and points out you are stuck with them forever so deal with it. You cannot rewrite the past, make your parent act less crazy, or walk away from any of their crap regardless of how many times you try. Everyone else's life looks normal and so much better than yours when you are on the sidewalk looking in watching them decorate the Christmas tree. You have to make your presence known and accept your role but also expand your existence and at some point put the baggage on wheels. It will be much easier to carry around and on occasionally dump off, I know of what I speak.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Novel about Family and Love and Laughter Sept. 1 2011
By C. M. Reilly - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I loved this book so much and stayed up way too late finishing it -- laughing at times, choking up at times (you can't read this without thinking about your own parents and siblings), and sometimes just longing to know what was going to happen NEXT. I identified with the main character, Keats. Who wouldn't? She's smart and funny and nice and trying to figure out how to cope with a crazy family full of geniuses who matter more than she does...or so she has decided.

A wonderful book full of wit and love and fun. I stayed up late to find out what was going to become of all these fabulous characters . What's it like to be smart but live in a family where you feel everyone else has a better job and is SMARTER -- though probably CRAZIER -- than you? What's it like to cling to the person you have always dated because the world scares you and you want to play it safe? And then what's it like when your parents' marriage begins to unravel and you suddenly find a sexy, brilliant man who wants you to take risks that scare you to the core of your being?

Whether you are 20 or 60, you really will identify with the heroine in this witty, warm, wonderful novel of love and romance and life. For me, if Franny in FRANNY AND ZOOEY had suddenly fallen in love, this would be her story.

This novel felt to me like climbing in the softest, most fabulous nightgown and spending the evening with a wonderful friend telling me all about life, and love and how to cope with crazy siblings and parents and PASSION.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars This was a very good read, but it made me a little depressed at the same time. Nov. 3 2011
By MoonlightReader - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Keats Sedlak is living a content, comfortable life. She is living in an apartment with her boyfriend of ten years and has a not so challenging job as an office manager. However, she is the oddball in her family, the normal one to say the least. Her brother, Milton, hasn't left their mother's house for two years. Her sister, Hopkins, is a genius, and she is currently saving lives as a neurologist. Her father, also a genius, is a published author and a professor at Harvard. Lastly, her mother drives her insane for many reasons, one of those is for always implying that Keats's boyfriend, Tom, isn't good enough or smart enough for her. In fact, her whole family seems to think that about Tom. They also don't like her job; none of them understand why she is working there and not getting a higher education.

While her family definitely drives her nuts, she is there for them when she is needed, like for going through items in the house she grew up in because her mother wants to sell it. In spending more time with her family, she is also spending more time with her dad's personal assistant, Jacob. Keats starts to question certain aspects in her life and witnesses all the changes taking place around her. She starts to see that change isn't always a bad thing.

My thoughts:
This was a very good read, but it made me a little depressed at the same time. Let me try to explain why without giving too much away. Keats's parents, who have been separated for years, are finally going through a divorce, a family member suffers a medical emergency, and I think the fact that Keats has to constantly defend her boyfriend and her happiness made it a little sad for me.

Keats is a great protagonist though. Although her family is constantly on her case and questioning her happiness, Keats stands up against it and defends herself. She also clearly loves them and lends them a hand, or even a stubborn threat, to help them out. I definitely felt for Keats when she was dealing with her family, but it wasn't always depressing. When she did interact with them there was usually some humor to be found in the struggle too. Here is Keats describing time with her dad:

"When he finally moves on from the topic of Keats's Wasted Life, it's to give me a lecture about the heart, both as muscle and as a literary trope. It's clearly something he's put a lot of thought into, but none of his observations seem all that original to me, and after a while, I can't restrain a yawn, which sends him into a long rant about the deterioration of the American attention span--which makes me so bored I could scream, which I guess proves his point." (p. 137)

While I wouldn't say that this is the best book I've ever read, it was an enjoyable read with a melancholy sort of feel.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tribute to Family and Coming-of-Age Story of Choices and Consequences Jan. 15 2013
By Dina - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Many people discover at some point - teenage years, anyone? - that we can choose our friends but not our relatives. If learning to accept that is a sign of maturity, then 25-year old Keats Sedlak has a long way to go at the beginning of this book. Of course, she has it harder than most. In addition to being named after an English romantic poet - his LAST name, on top of that - she comes from a family of socially maladjusted genius. Keats is beautiful, smart and kind but in her family, she feels inferior and out of place. Her personal act of rebellion against the brains and expectations of that family is working a job that's far beneath her abilities and living with a boyfriend she met when she was 15.

Keats has always been the problem-solver in her family. She feels she is being served more than her usual share of challenges when her mother files for divorce, her father becomes sick, and her brother refuses to leave the house their mother has decided to sell. Keats is trying to find a way to help everyone survive the crisis but she quickly realizes she must add herself to the list.

Families and Other Nonreturnable Gifts is a charming novel that I could not put down. Keats is a likable character who is not perfect but she is certainly a fast learner. Her journey to adulthood and to accepting her family is long and uneven, in equal parts emotionally charged and funny. The book is a tribute to family and friendship as much as a coming-of-age story of choices and consequences, and I loved every word.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Even better than If You Lived Here... Feb. 9 2012
By 3kidsandnolife - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Don't be fooled by the cover or title of this book--it is definitely not some mindless piece of fluff! It is a wonderful and engrossing exploration of family, love, playing it safe, making changes, genius, madness and acceptance of oneself and others. I read a lot, and I have never been so unhappy at finishing a book! Like the best books (and life in general), this one contains plenty of both humor and sadness. The thinly veiled references to The Jersey Shore and the "making out" question posed by Hopkins at the end were hilarious, but Milton's and Hopkins's social limitations, and Keats's feelings of inadequacy, were heartbreaking. I rooted for Keats and Jacob (no spoilers!), and loved their scenes together. This is a must-read!!

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