My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This book at its core is a drama about family, and who one is both within the context of their family and who they are as individuals. I loved that about this book. The struggle each character goes through just trying to figure out who they are was both fun and stressful to experience. Each of them had such unique personalities and journeys. This variety keeps everything feeling fresh and new as you read through the book. The way the book is narrated is also an exciting aspect of how the story is presented. I loved the slight tonal shift partway through the book.
All My Thoughts
May contain spoilers.
The entire way reading through this book I felt like I was constantly on edge with the tension that was between nearly every character. The story starts by giving us backstory on how Salo and Johanna, the parents of the siblings that comprise the majority of the story, met. I started the book not really knowing where things were going since the story starts so far back, but it does a fantastic job of providing just the right amount of information that you are going to need to understand a character and the significance of that character’s actions. I feel this really highlights how impactful past actions and experiences are on a person.
The book’s primary focus though is on the extremely volatile relationship between Salo and Johanna’s children, Harrison, Lewyn, and Sally. (As well as the fourth sibling later down the line.) I adored these characters because despite being triplets they were all so unique in their ways of thinking and behaviors. Even the fact that none of them actually liked each other was handled differently across each sibling. Each chapter jumps from one sibling to the next telling the story of their lives both as members of their family and as them trying to figure themselves out. Again, these go in so many directions that at no point did anything feel repetitive or boring. I even liked reading about Harrison, who was the worst person but written well in that regard. I had a fondness for Sally and Lewyn. They still wanted nothing to do with each other, (maybe more so in Sally’s case) but the connection they had through growing up was entertaining to experience. I loved that Sally felt like the most mature one of the three as well as the most jaded and disgruntled with life. Learning that she spent a good deal of her life struggling with understanding her sexuality was heartbreaking, but also made watching her grow extremely satisfying. Poor Lewyn seemed the most innocent of the family so seeing his struggle with figuring out his place in life was just as equally heartbreaking.
What really sticks out is the narration of the book. It’s clear that the narrator of this family epic is a character from the story, but we aren’t provided that information until much later. (Though you do have a pretty good idea who it is at some point.) In the last third of the book, we learn that the narrator is Pheobe, the titular character and fourth sibling to the Oppenheimer family that comes about once the triplets have moved on to college. Pheobe obviously grows up outside of the core drama that makes up most of the story but is very much affected by everything up to this point. She narrates everything like an outsider presenting the details in the first two-thirds of the book, then in the last part, we see a switch to her telling her own story of her life and her place in the family. Pheobe is a fascinating character and such a keep part of reconciling every drama that has happened in the last 45 years, even though she herself is a teenager by this point in the story. I really enjoyed the time jump from her being an infant to looking into colleges. She is so different from the rest of the family that her perspective on everything was thrilling and just added to her likability. She took the book in the perfect direction for a satisfying ending that encompassed everything in every aspect of their family.
This was a great family drama with lots of really interesting characters and so much tension from start to finish. It has slow but effective pacing for the subject and a well-rounded conclusion.
Book provided by Celadon Books in exchange for an honest review.