The Dugan family is the Bad News Bears of families. The odds are stacked against them in so many ways and yet over the course of the collection they will mature and show at least small signs of goodness. As the collection opens, mother Lavinia is preparing to leave for a business conference. She's in sales for a small company that sells manufactured homes. Husband Potter is out of work because of an injury and he's well on his way to depressed alcoholism. The five children run wild and are the source of some petty unpleasantness in the neighborhood. They come across as minor hooligans, cursing and treating the neighbors and their property with no respect. Teenaged Angie is the oldest Dugan child and is a cross between a goth and a punk. Then comes Timothy, twins Marta and Maggie, and finally Foster, the happiest and sweetest of the bunch. They are a messy, weary, broken and dysfunctional sort of family.
The stories contained here address abuse, neglect, divorce, parent and child dynamics, frustration, and surprisingly enough, love. The characters are three dimensional and completely realistic, if not always terribly honest, likable, and appealing. And each story is narrated from the point of view of or centered around a different character so that the eventual picture drawn here is a complete and rounded one. Each new story also moves the Dugans forward in time so that ultimately the collection spans many years in the lives of this family showing clearly the ways in which they have changed and matured, or, conversely, didn't. Chronicling their setbacks and small kindnesses, the stories seem to show that there's not much joy to be had with this clan but eventually there does seem to be a quiet kind of contentment and acceptance of where they all are in life. Despite the lack of shiny happiness, this was a wonderful and touching read.
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Thanks to Lisa from TLC Book Tours and the publisher for sending me a copy of this book to review.