Title: The Other Family
Author: Joanna Trollope
Release Date: April 13, 2010
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Source: Amazon Vine
Rating: 4 out of 5
After Richie, her partner of 23 years, dies, Chrissie is bereft and doesn’t know what to do. How will she go on? How will their three daughters cope? But as Chrissie is asking the normal questions of grief, she realizes that things are much more complicated than they first appeared. Chrissie and Richie were never officially married, and Richie never divorced his first wife. What’s more, he chose to remember his first wife and son in his will. As both of Richie’s families try to come to terms with his death, they find anger, frustration, and acceptance as they deal with one another.
I’ve never read anything by Joanna Trollope, but I’ve been wanting to for some time. The Other Family seemed like a good place to start. Its complex characters and unique plot made it a very interesting read.
There were a lot of main characters in The Other Family. Of course there’s Richie, who dies at the very beginning of the novel. Then there’s Chrissie, his not-quite-widow, and their three daughters, the youngest of which is Amy. On the other side, there’s the family Richie left behind, Margaret and their son, Scott. Trollope did an excellent job giving each of their characters their own distinct personalities. Chrissie’s two elder daughters are a bit on the surface - the reader never really gets to know them well. But Amy is probably the most appealing character of the book. She shows balance to her mother’s hysterics, and tries to do the right thing, even when she knows it will upset those around her.
Trollope does a remarkable job portraying grief through Chrissie. It’s understandable why Chrissie is shattered when Richie dies, and why she begins to doubt their love when she realizes he never forgot her first family. Chrissie descends into a place of selfishness and despair, which makes her a bit difficult to like. She lashes out at her daughters, reminding them about how difficult things are for her, and to stop only thinking about themselves. But, the reader must ask themselves, what is Chrissie doing? Is she really thinking about what’s best for her family? At the same time, though, Chrissie’s actions are understandable (if frustrating) when viewed through the prism of grief; she’s just trying to cope with Richie’s death, and doing so in the best way she knows how.
The plot of The Other Family is interesting, if a little bit dull. The theme of the entire book is waking up and taking charge, rather than sleepwalking through life. In order to get that theme across, though, Trollope is required to let these characters sleepwalk for a good long bit in order to shake them awake. As a result, the book doesn’t move quite as quickly as it could.
I enjoyed The Other Family and will definitely be going back to read more of Trollope’s works. I appreciated the message of her book and her character development was impressive, at least with Chrissie, Amy, Margaret, Scott. I’ll be looking forward to seeing what she does next.