A Good Family: Book summary and reviews of A Good Family by Erik Fassnacht

A Good Family

by Erik Fassnacht

A Good Family by Erik Fassnacht
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  • Published in USA  Aug 2015
    432 pages
    Genre: Novels

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Book Summary

Meet the Brunsons of Downers Grove, Illinois. Henry is the once-magical father, whose fear of aging and endangered career lead him to the nightclubs of Chicago's Viagra Triangle. His wife Julie struggles to reclaim her life with a bottle of Zoloft and dreams of her youthful independence. Charlie, the golden-boy son, leaves the lucrative job his father arranged to serve in Afghanistan - and returns angry, damaged and uncertain of his place in the world. And Barkley, the bumbling youngest, is an aspiring writer of geeky science fiction stories now interviewing for his first job at a forbidding Catholic high school. 

When Henry's health abruptly declines, he tries to return to the home and the life he had dominated. But his family, once totally dependent on his love, physical strength, and income, no longer needs him. As Julie, Charlie, and Barkley begin to find their ways forward, Henry tries desperately to bring them back together. In the end, each one will arrive at a new understanding of what family can - and cannot - be. Unusually assured and perceptive, combining narrative drive with humor, insight, and powerful family dynamics, A Good Family is a memorable debut by former high school teacher Erik Fassnacht.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Fassnacht's debut works as a read-alike for both Jennifer Weiner and Jonathan Franzen for the way it so convincingly melds domestic drama, suburban angst, and beautifully descriptive writing." - Booklist

"This familial drama is a bit long on descriptive exposition, the author keeps the gears turning as all four characters contribute their separate strifes and their own means of resolution. Fassnacht has created a relatable quartet of interconnected characters in this engrossing and lucid work." - Publishers Weekly

"This is a readable debut whose lapses into triteness betray the author's youth even as they belie his potential." - Kirkus

"A Good Family is an intense, compassionate and very funny book. This is a sharply observed, deeply satisfying novel: a joy, a discovery." - Audrey Niffenegger, author of The Time Traveler's Wife and Her Fearful Symmetry

"A Good Family is a crowd-pleasing, affecting, and compassionately written novel filled with a memorable cast of characters that readers will cheer for and cry with." - Nickolas Butler, author of Shotgun Lovesongs and Beneath the Bonfire

The information about A Good Family shown above was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's online-magazine that keeps our members abreast of notable and high-profile books publishing in the coming weeks. In most cases, the reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author of this book and feel that the reviews shown do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, please send us a message with the mainstream media reviews that you would like to see added.

Reader Reviews

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Katherine D. (Rochester, NY)

A Good Family
A Good Family is a study of the Bronson family. Henry,the father of this family has left home hoping to resurrect the successful businessman he once was, and instead is in crisis as he watches younger people assuming the importance he once held. Julie, the mother, has given up her dreams of being a dancer, in order to be a nurturing mother. She is barely getting through her days thanks to the comfort of her Zoloft pillow. Charlie, the charming handsome athletic older son is clearly holds a strategic position in this carefully crafted ' Calder mobile' story. The younger son, Barkley, has been shaped by being eclipsed by Charlie. He is rather introverted, but has become a keen observer of the dynamics of this family. Charlie's return from a tour in Afghanistan is the catalyst which blows this deeply fractured family apart as surely as if he were a bomb arriving on their doorstep.

As the story is carried forward by each member in turn, the repercussions affect Barkley enough to finally force him find his own voice. We are witness to the disintegration and reintegration of these ultimately very strong characters. His keen observations, and thoughtful actions over time knit the pieces of this family together. Just how the fragments from this explosion are allowed to fall into place by Erik Fassnacht will keep your spirits soaring and sinking on an exhilarating ride. This reader wishes there were a ticket available for the continuation of this amazing journey.

Christine B. (Scottsdale, AZ)

Superb Debut Novel
I so thoroughly enjoyed this book. Each member of the Brunson family is undergoing their own personal crisis; a theme generated in many novels. However the format of this novel and the interactions (or non-interactions) among the family members is what makes this book stand out. Whether or not you like the way their lives progress throughout the book, the family captures your heart and universally connects us all. I would most certainly recommend this book for book clubs or just a great read.

Kenan R. (Liberty, MO)

A Finely Drawn Character Study
The Brunson family has imploded. Told from the perspective of the 4 adult members of the family this story starts as a slow burn. The characters are all drowning in the minutia of their own existences and cannot seem to figure out how to move forward. Corporate downsizing, empty nest, post-grad stall, xanax, and PTSD - this family is running the gamut of 21st century problems. The author uses their four separate voices to create fully formed characters in whom we become invested. Together they form a family who, for better or worse, keep moving forward to some type of personal and familial resolution. The characters are flawed and altogether human, not necessarily likeable in the beginning, but by the novel's end we care and need to know that they will come out the other side. A compelling and well written story.

Becky H. (Chicago, IL)

A GOOD Family
I almost quit reading – then I got to page 58 and I was hooked. The four members of this family are damaged, damaged by each other, damaged by their past, damaged by their own actions. The characters are finely drawn, believable and you get to know them intimately. The situations are timely and true. The writing is expressive. These are people and situations you want to know and care about deeply – even when they are being incredibly stupid in their actions. The tempo and tension increase as the book travels to its conclusion. There is sufficient humor to lighten what could be a depressing book.
I especially liked the sections about Barkley and his illustrious Catholic high school. The politics of schools are spot on (I'm a former teacher at a religious school). I rooted for Julie to detach from her stifling marriage and find (re-find?) herself and her dreams. The male writer got women right –Julie, Ginny and Margaret.
Book groups will a plethora of topics to discuss, including the endings for each family member.

Diana P. (Schulenburg, TX)

A Good Family
A very good family saga that would be perfect for book groups. This is a story of the four members of the Brunson family which becomes disrupted by the twists and turns of life. Told from each family member's point of view you will be drawn into their world and as they are each torn apart they will have to find their own individual ways to move forward and to survive. Lessons will be learned!

Barbara O. (Maryland Heights, MO)

A Good Family
A page turner. We all know these people or think we do. All families struggle but what circumstances cause a successful "good" family to fall apart? How they find their way back, individually makes for a great read. Wonderful debut story hope to read more from Erik Fassnacht.

...18 more reader reviews

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Erik Fassnacht was born and raised in Chicago. He attended college at the University of Iowa before becoming a high school English and creative writing teacher. Spurred by a lifelong desire to write, he left teaching to get his MFA at Columbia College, where he wrote his debut novel, A Good Family.

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