Family of Origin: Book summary and reviews of Family of Origin by CJ Hauser

Family of Origin

by CJ Hauser

Family of Origin by CJ Hauser X
Family of Origin by CJ Hauser
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  • Published in USA  Jul 2019
    304 pages
    Genre: Novels

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Book Summary

When Nolan Grey receives news that his father, a once-prominent biologist, has drowned off Leap's Island, he calls on Elsa, his estranged, older half-sister, to help pick up the pieces. This, despite the fact that it was he and Elsa who broke the family in the first place.

The Greys have been avoiding each other for a dozen years.

Elsa and Nolan travel to their father's field station, a wild and isolated spot off the Gulf Coast. Here, their father's fatalistic colleagues, the Reversalists, obsessively study the undowny bufflehead, a rare sea duck whose loss of waterproof feathers proves, they say, that evolution is running in reverse and humanity's best days are behind us.

On an island that is always looking backward, it's impossible for the siblings to ignore their past. Stuck together in the close quarters of their island stilt-house, and provoked by the absurd antics of the remaining Reversalists, years of family secrecy and blame between Elsa and Nolan threaten to ruin them all over again. As the Greys urgently trek the island to find the so-called Paradise Duck, their father's final obsession, they begin to fear that they were their father's first evidence that the future held no hope.

In the irreverent and exuberant spirit of Kevin Wilson, Alissa Nutting, and Karen Russell, CJ Hauser speaks to a generation's uncertainties: Is it possible to live in our broken world with both scientific pragmatism and hope? What does one generation owe another? How do we know which parts of the past, and ourselves, to jettison and which to keep? Delightfully funny, fiercely original, high-spirited and warm, Family of Origin grapples with questions of nature and nurture, evolution and mating, intimacy and betrayal, progress and forgiveness.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Reminiscent of the family explorations of Rick Moody, Jennifer Egan, and Lauren Groff...Full of brilliantly realized characters, Hauser's latest is profound, often incredibly funny, and captures the times like few other contemporary novels." - Booklist (starred review)

"This shimmering take on grief and family will enthrall fans of character-driven stories with its bevy of dashed dreams and cluttered emotions." - Publishers Weekly

"Hauser's ability to render the complexities of family relationships with radical honesty is a feat...A unique, poignant, and slightly taboo novel about family, biology, and evolution." - Kirkus Reviews

"CJ Hauser's Family of Origin is strange in that way raw honesty often is. It is sharp in its prose and in how it can so cleanly make you feel pierced through. Hauser lures us to an island and from there we learn of family and loss and the nature of our essential humanity. Funny and unforgettable." - Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, author of Friday Black

"A bold, strange novel, one that spirits readers to some of the furthest reaches of human experience. Wildly inventive and intensely moving." - R.O. Kwon, author of The Incendiaries

"In Family of Origin, CJ Hauser explores and explodes the most complex moments in life: those moments with a power that spirals both backward and forward in time, those moments that shift in meaning and shape us into who we are. This riveting and emotionally intricate book doesn't shy away from the deepest questions about how a family, and a species, can survive." - Helen Phillips, author of The Need

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Author Information

CJ Hauser

CJ Hauser teaches creative writing and literature at Colgate University. She is the author of the novel The From-Aways and her fiction has appeared in Tin House, Narrative Magazine, TriQuarterly, Esquire, Third Coast, and The Kenyon Review. She holds an MFA in fiction from Brooklyn College and a PhD in Creative Writing from The Florida State University. She lives in Hamilton, New York.

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