Saturday, January 7, 2017

The Forrests by Emily Perkins

Dorothy Forrest is born into a large family.  The father comes from a wealthy family but has never been a success himself.  When Dorothy is seven, he impulsively moves the family from America to Auckland, New Zealand, where he can ignore the family and work on his get-rich schemes in peace.  This leaves the family in perilous financial trouble and there is little money to spare to raise the five children.  Sometimes the father is gone for months leaving their mother to make do as best she can.  Yet she also finds the kindness to basically take in another child, Daniel, who lives close but is basically raising himself, the only ambitious individual in a house of drug addicts.

The children grow up, as children do.  They survive their parent's upbringing, from moving to living on a commune while the father goes to America for a while, to other moves.  The children grow up tightly bonded although they aren't that attached to their parents.  Perkins follows the children over the years as they find jobs, marry or have relationships, have children, divorce, and even face death.  The one constant over the years is Dorothy's feelings for Daniel, which he sometimes reciprocates and sometimes ignores.  Finally, old age comes to the children and they themselves leave behind children for another era.

Emily Perkins has won several literary prizes such as the Best First Book of the New Zealand Book Award and the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize.  The Forrests was nominated for the Orange Prize in 2013.  It shows the ebb and flow of a family, how relationships within the family sustain a person throughout their life and how love can bloom and survive even with years of separation.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

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