The Children: Book summary and reviews of The Children by Ann Leary

The Children

by Ann Leary

The Children by Ann Leary X
The Children by Ann Leary
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Book Summary

From New York Times bestselling author Ann Leary comes the captivating story of a wealthy, but unconventional New England family, told from the perspective of a reclusive 29-year-old who has a secret (and famous) life on the Internet.

Charlotte Maynard rarely leaves her mother's home, the sprawling Connecticut lake house that belonged to her late stepfather, Whit Whitman, and the generations of Whitmans before him. While Charlotte and her sister, Sally, grew up at "Lakeside," their stepbrothers, Spin and Perry, were welcomed as weekend guests. Now the grown boys own the estate, which Joan occupies by their grace - and a provision in the family trust.

When Spin, the youngest and favorite of all the children, brings his fiancé home for the summer, the entire family is intrigued. The beautiful and accomplished Laurel Atwood breathes new life into this often comically rarefied world. But as the wedding draws near, and flaws surface in the family's polite veneer, an array of simmering resentments and unfortunate truths is exposed.

With remarkable wit and insight, Ann Leary pulls back the curtain on one blended family, as they are forced to grapple with the assets and liabilities – both material and psychological – left behind by their wonderfully flawed patriarch.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. In this deeply satisfying novel about how unknowable people can be, intrigue builds with glass shards of dark humor toward an ending that is far from comic." - Kirkus

"Although Leary (The Good House) ties up her loose ends a little too neatly, her characters are a delightful blend of strong personalities, all with their own little touch of delicious evil, and her darkly comic send-ups of New England wealth, nouveau riche, and Internet culture should keep readers absorbed until the final, most shocking secrets are revealed." - Publishers Weekly

"Ann Leary's compelling tale is satisfyingly layered with unreliable witnesses and betrayals large and small; in which the worst harm may not be caused by an unknown stranger." - Helen Simonson, author of Major Pettigrew's Last Stand

"With a deft, sure touch, Ann Leary moves easily and confidently between comedy and pathos, painting a rich portrait of a wealthy, eccentric Connecticut family whose conflicts and loyalties are far more complex than they first appear. As the story unfolds, it becomes a profound meditation on the burden of expectations, familial ties that bind, and the explosive nature of buried secrets." - Christina Baker Kline, author of Orphan Train

"The Children is populated by comically quirky characters reminiscent of Anne Tyler at her best. But in Ann Leary's capable hands, they come alive as funny, wise, sometimes confused but always hopeful as they navigate a plot rich with unexpected turns. Leary's unique voice and perspective make this the novel you won't be able to put down this summer." - Ann Hood, author of The Obituary Writer

This information about The Children was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. Publication information is for the USA, and (unless stated otherwise) represents the first print edition. The reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that they do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, send us a message with the mainstream reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

Reader Reviews

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Katherine D. (Rochester, NY)

The Children
Here is the story of an "old" American dynasty. Told from the viewpoint of a step daughter, we are once again reminded of the puzzle of how roles assigned to us as children continue to affect us long after we are grown.

In this case, the children are separated into two distinct categories: biological children of the Patriarch, Whit Whitman, and step children of the same man. There is a clear disconnect between the bios and the steps. The former is way more than "average", and the latter way less than "average". This takes place at the Lake House which has sheltered many generations, a house which has smothered the aspirations of these step daughters, and from which the real Whitman sons and heirs choose to distance themselves.

As the story begins, the senior Whitman has died and left a an unbreakable trust to his sons. we are lulled by the uneventfulness of the beginning, and caught up abruptly by the addition of one new individual who cleverly and subliminally manages to reassign roles to all the children.

While this raises a gut reaction of unfairness, ultimately the dissolution of this family and its unwritten rules will be the saving grace so badly needed by the Whitman stepchildren and their mother. The reader is left with the guilty hope that Fate will prevail and that the perpetrator who seems to escape unscathed will meet justice in the near future.

Marci G. (Sicklerville, NJ)

Blended Family Dysfunction
We all have our family stories. Our world according to ourselves formed from family lore with our own personal twist. The setting is Lakeside Cottage, the ancestral home of The Whitman family.This story weaves a the tale of 2 families blended together by an affair. On the surface everything appears to have worked out well until a girl with her own agenda targets the favorite son and changes the course their family forever.

Christine B. (St. Paul, MN)

Family Circus
My goodness- what an interesting cast of characters! Ms. Leary introduces us to the inept and narcissistic widow- her two daughters, one a manic-depressive musical genius and the other an accomplished agoraphobic blog writer - the two step sons- one a wealthy family loner and the other the seemingly "perfect" son harboring a deep seated anger and resentment. Into this dysfunctional mix a philandering groundskeeper and the deviant and fraudulent fiance make their appearances. There are also moments of gentle humor and great sadness woven into this most entertaining family story. I would highly recommend it.

Susan R. (Julian, NC)

Family Saga
This is my first book by Ann Leary and after reading it, I plan to read her older books. I loved her characters - my favorites were Joan and Charlotte but all of the characters added to the story line. Joan and her two daughters were definitely quirky and that made the novel even more interesting and in parts very humorous.


When Whit Whitman died, he left his estate to his two begins to show cracks when Spin brings home his fiancee. Add in a caretaker who is having an affair with Charlotte and a thief in the neighborhood who breaks into houses to clean them and you have all the elements needed for a great read that you don't want to put down until the last page is read. Great story!

Janet R. (Visalia, CA)

The Children by Ann Leary
The Children is a humorous, wandering story of a family as it adjusts to the death of its patriarch, Whit Whitman. Each character is a little off-center, a little quirky. The plot meanders through the spring and summer leading up to one son's marriage. However, in the midst of this fun little saga, a malevolent shadow looms. The novel turns from tongue-in-check belly laughter into a thriller which goes second by second to its surprise conclusion. The characters are like my own siblings by the end of the story-a little off beat, a little contentious, but wholly developed individuals. The plot does digress at times to the point of distraction, but is an engaging, fully enjoyable adventure in the beautiful scenery of a lakeside in Connecticut. I had a hard time putting it down the weekend I read it. A delight!

Shirley L. (Norco, LA)

A Tender Family Story
When I reviewed Ann Leary's previous novel, The Good House, for BookBrowse in 2012, I gave it high marks. I enjoyed this book even more. Charlotte Maynard's voice was clear, poignant, humorous and brilliant. This novel, although set in rural northern Connecticut, was reminiscent of Ellen Gilchrist's southern novels. And that is quite a compliment.

Leary's characters are strong and well developed. This reader wishes she lived next door to them on that idyllic lake, even if that means being on the lookout for Mr. Clean.

...20 more reader reviews

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Author Information

Ann Leary Author Biography

Photo: Cathrine White

Ann Leary is the New York Times bestselling author of the novels, The Children, The Good House, Outtakes From a Marriage, and the memoir An Innocent, a Broad.

Her work has been translated into eighteen languages and she has written for numerous publications including Ploughshares, NPR, Real Simple and the New York Times. Ann's "Modern Love" essay, "Rallying to Keep the Game Alive," was adapted for the Amazon Modern Love TV Series and stars Tina Fey and John Slattery. The Good House was adapted as a motion picture starring Sigourney Weaver and Kevin Kline and recently premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Her novel The Foundling was released in May 2022. Ann and her husband Denis Leary live in New York.

... Full Biography
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