Review (not rated)
Andrew Snapshots tells the story of the Mahoneys, a contemporary Irish-Catholic family from suburban New Jersey. First time novelist William Norris draws a convincing portrait of a nuclear family, one that will especially resonate with readers who came of age in suburban America between 1970 and 1990.
From 1997 to 1972 (the story is told in reverse chronological order), family dynamics shift as sisters bond, parents grow apart, and father and son fail to understand each other. Although the story has no true plot, Norris keeps the pace moving by employing a quick-cut third person narrative that moves from the perspective of one family member to another. In this form, Norris skillfully presents a tender character study of all six family members.
Norris's portrayal of the Mahoneys is heartfelt without being overly sentimental. In a scene from the "1975" chapter, eight year old Sean Mahoney's older sister Patty tells him that in the woods near the family home there is a magical circle where elves live and have parties. Together, they go to the site one day after school and what Sean sees makes him believe in his older sister even more than he had before their journey into the woods. Norris treats the scene with great restraint, never giving in to a sentimental impulse, or otherwise intruding on this real, quiet moment between brother and sister.
Norris gives all the characters unique, bold voices that hold consistent throughout the years. For example, in the first chapter we meet the eldest daughter Kate at age 35. When we see her as a teenager a few chapters later, she is instantly recognizable and it makes perfect sense that this girl will grow into the woman that the reader knows her to be.
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