Families and Other Nonreturnable Gifts Paperback – Sep 1 2011
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"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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.