Happy Family by Tracy Barone


“She was finally free from the irons of family obligation.”

No, she wasn’t. We never are- there always chains in wait. A baby girl is born, her young mother is a beautiful mess and a high school boy is lost in an infatuation for that most interesting woman around, surely if he keeps her baby she will return for it and maybe into his arms as thanks? That is the lusty wishful thinking of Billy Beal who offers up his own family’s nest to care for the infant. It is a loud family, but generous in their chaos. Just as the reader gets hooked by them, another mother faces a tragic loss, this whim of fate is in young Cheri’s favor and she soon finds herself a Matzner. Beautiful and exotic Cici mesmerized Sol Matzner so much that his love for her cost him his family as well as his religious identity. Jewish or not, most families have their own sort of prejudice, that old “us” vs “them” mentality. Everyone likes to think their family is beyond those old world values, but experience tells me something is always going to be unacceptable. It’s one thing to accept anything foreign ideally, but within one’s own family- certainly not. Sol follows his feelings and through an enormous loss tries to fix his wife’s broken heart with the young infant. It’s too much to reveal what happens from there, but we understand how a child can be salvation and devastation, depending on whose prospective we’re privy to.
Forty years later we see where life has led Cheri. Her choices, coming from a privileged home are questionable in her parent’s opinion, but one has to wonder is the author throwing the readers a bone to wonder about nurture vs nature? She chose East Village with it’s colorful characters much to her parents shock. Cheri abandons her elite education to work for the NYPD and certainly must have been comfortable with seedy situations. In fact, she almost seems to try on different lives. Abandoning higher learning only to return to it when she’s burned out on being a cop. Why is it so difficult between her father Sol and her? Her mother certainly exhausts her too, but there is a deeper bond between them. What is going on with her love life? She wants to get pregnant, her and her husband are trying but maybe she wants it more than him? Maybe neither of them want it anymore?
This story is overflowing, there is so much happening that starts in abandonment. There are different issues- religion, being a foreigner, being adopted, love that fades, love that consumes, loss, lies, evasion, trying to protect those you love from brutal reality, endings, beginnings… What is identity exactly? Is it necessary to grow into the skin our family has passed down to us or is it better to shed it and sew our own? Do you ever really escape your biological make-up, or does it simply rise to the surface.
Who knows? But this is one hell of a book!

Little, Brown and Company
 Lee Boudreaux Books  Publication Date: May 24, 2016



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