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Did You Ever Have a Family

     by Clegg, Bill

Did You Ever Have a Family

June Reid is left empty and broken when tragedy strikes on what is supposed to be one of the happiest days of her life. After a fire takes the lives of June's ex-husband, her current boyfriend, her daughter and her daughter's fiancĂ© on the morning of her daughter's wedding, June is left adrift. She sets off in her Subaru after the funerals with nothing but the clothes on her back and her debit card, led only by the desire to put distance between herself and the ruins of her life. Lydia Morey is equally unsure of what the future holds as she tries to recover from the death of her estranged son, who was June's boyfriend. She remains in town, absorbing not only the impact of the fire but also the vicious gossip that spreads in its wake. She and June are worlds apart in terms of social and economic strata, but the feelings of utter grief and despair they experience are an equalizer of sorts. This is a family saga at its heart, though it isn't clear how everyone is interconnected until long after those connections have been severed. 

While the subject matter is grim, this isn't a book that is weighed down with angst. It's through the conspicuous absence of heavy emotion that the reader truly experiences the depths of June and Lydia's grief. June shuts down after the death of her family, and while Lydia does manage to function, it's with an awareness of her life's lack of focus that she'd never had before. Their apathetic lack of purpose conveys what they can't put voice to themselves. The books shifts between points of views, which can be a bit jarring and contributes to the overarching feel that there is no main character aside from the fire and the emptiness it left behind. It's an impressive feat, especially since readers don't get a first-hand view of the fire themselves. The tragedy has wrapped its fingers around everyone, from the teenage stoner neighbor who hears the sirens from the approaching fire trucks to the motel maid thousands of miles away, and as the book progresses the reader discovers connections that at times feel a bit forced but make for a compelling, though detached, narrative.

Reviewed by ba, 12/15. Other reviews by ba.