Friday, May 8, 2015

#REVIEW - The Children's Crusade by Ann Packer

From the New York Times bestselling, award-winning author of The Dive From Clausen's Pier, a sweeping, masterful new novel that explores the secrets and desires, the remnant wounds and saving graces of one California family, over the course of five decades.
Bill Blair finds the land by accident, three wooded acres in a rustic community south of San Francisco. The year is 1954, long before anyone will call this area Silicon Valley. Struck by a vision of the family he has yet to create, Bill buys the property on a whim. In Penny Greenway he finds a suitable wife, a woman whose yearning attitude toward life seems compelling and answerable, and they marry and have four children. Yet Penny is a mercurial housewife, at a time when women chafed at the conventions imposed on them. She finds salvation in art, but the cost is high.

Thirty years later, the three oldest Blair children, adults now and still living near the family home, are disrupted by the return of the youngest, whose sudden presence and all-too-familiar troubles force a reckoning with who they are, separately and together, and set off a struggle over the family's future. One by one, the siblings take turns telling the story--Robert, a doctor like their father; Rebecca, a psychiatrist; Ryan, a schoolteacher; and James, the malcontent, the problem child, the only one who hasn't settled down-their narratives interwoven with portraits of the family at crucial points in their history.

My Take:
3 Stars

I would have preferred to have given this a 2.5 Star rating, but we can't. It's not any lower than that.
As Bill Blair is done serving his time in the Korean War, he returns to Michigan. He is a Pediatrician and wanted to pursue his career in California. He happens to find an area of land he fell in love with, now Silicon Valley, so he ended up buying it. This is where he and his wife, Penny will end up building a home together along with their four children. The children are Robert, Rebecca, Ryan, and James. After James was born, he was the baby of the house for what seemed like forever, and still is because he still gets into trouble. Even the older kids felt James got away with a lot more than they ever did, and it was at this point when their dysfunction began. Even their Mother needed a break and got into Art. Four children is a lot of kids! The problems continue as they grow up and become adults. The now adult siblings never really get along as well as they could if they could have just left their childhood back where it was and not allowed it to continue into their adult lives. This is the problem with these kids now. You cannot have a great family life if you allow the undertow from years ago keep dragging you along and down the river. Rebecca and James really seem to have it in for each other the most, in my opinion. She kind of resents James because she still feels like he is still being babied and allowed to get away with things. Stop. Right there. In order for a family to be able to grow and remain close, siblings cannot do what those two still do. Sibling rivalry, as well, even if it's not right in front of you, or even if it does, it still goes on. This is how this book fell flat for myself. Hefty issues. 449 pages, but that is a lot when a book is so deep. I finished it, but it was a chore. I wanted more than what it offered. I wanted some fun. I wanted it to be a little lighter at times. Throw in some lightness, or make-up from an old issue. Go on a vacation. On second thought, perhaps I didn’t like this story so much because this reminded me how my own family is. We are at a stalemate. None of us can grow because much more often than not I still get treated like a child, or they make it into a joke. It's not funny to me. I believe we are ALL treated like children and siblings, but there is a limit, and people need to learn how and when to realize they are doing it and stop it. So I just read a book with issues in it that are in my own family and the same things are still going on in it. Sad. I honestly don’t think there is a way families can repair themselves after they have lived like this for decades and no one has brought up the 'repairing' of it. Although you could have a counselor sit in and everyone there would have to be a willing participant to try to mend ways, but in this book, Rebecca is a psychiatrist! I’ve never heard of that happening, nor do I think it would work because it doesn't here, either. If you are younger than your forties, I would not recommend this piece of contemporary fiction, although it's up to you, but this family's issues go way back just like most do, too. There are a lot of other more suitable books for you younger people. Just my opinion.
I got this book for free from the Publisher who is Scribner, and through NetGalley to read and write an honest review.

ebook: $10.99
print:   $18.38

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