Outwardly, they look like any other family: four kids spread across three households coming together for Sunday dinners, birthdays and holidays. But in Eleanor Brown's insightful third novel, Any Other Family, the dynamics are unconventional and complicated. The kids (a tween, seven-year-old twins and a not-quite-one-year-old) are biological siblings, adopted by three previously unconnected families. The parents work hard to make sure their kids feel loved and can sustain deep relationships with one another. But on their first-ever group vacation in Aspen, their bonds will be tested as long-simmering secrets and new challenges rise to the surface.
Brown (The Light of Paris) unspools the story through multiple perspectives, switching between Tabitha, who orchestrated the vacation and is determined to make it fabulous; Ginger, the introverted single mother who is wary of forced closeness; and Elizabeth, who desperately wanted a child but is finding motherhood with a new baby miserable. Although Tabitha's husband, Perry, and Elizabeth's husband, John, play important supporting roles in the family, Brown's keen eye is focused on the women: their individual struggles, the complex dynamic among them and the ways they all must balance their fierce love for their children with the family baggage they each carry.
As Brown writes in her author's note, adoption is a multilayered subject, and this one slice leaves out many of the larger forces affecting adoptive families. But her characters wrestle convincingly and compassionately with the challenges of their particular experience. Thoughtful, compelling and ultimately hopeful, Any Other Family asks hard and necessary questions about adoption, privilege and what truly makes a family. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams