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A Friend of the Family Hardcover – November 10, 2009

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Editorial Reviews Review

Amazon Best Books of the Month, November 2009: In A Friend of the Family, Lauren Grodstein, author of the breakout debut novel, Reproduction Is the Flaw of Love, goes to even greater literary heights with a contemporary suburban drama brewing with an undercurrent of violence that, with each turn of the page, takes on the weight of an American tragedy. As the book opens, Peter Dizinoff, a successful New Jersey doctor, is struggling to adjust to the aftermath of his actions as the foundation of his personal and professional life crack beneath his feet. At the center of his troubles is his beloved son Alec, who deflates his father's high expectations when he drops out of college after just three semesters and moves into the apartment above their garage. And when his son begins seeing Laura, the troubled daughter of Peter's best friend who is ten years older than Alec and lives in the tainted shadow of being acquitted for an unspeakable crime when she was 17, Alec's ambivalence to his father's hopes in living a good life turn into a simmering rage. Dizinoff, a man with a clear definition of right and wrong, flips back and forth in time as he narrates the history of events that build their way to a layered, emotionally wrenching climax. --Brad Thomas Parsons

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. In her wonderful second novel, Grodstein (Reproduction Is the Flaw of Love) traces a suburban crisis and gives especially perceptive attention to the father-son bond. Pete Dizinoff has it pretty good—an internist with a successful practice, loving wife, nice house in a safe New Jersey suburb and his best friend living close by—but there's some nasty muck beneath the surface. Some years back, Laura, the daughter of Pete's best friend, Joe, was suspected of murdering her baby upon birth. Now in her early 30s, Laura's returned to town after several years of leisurely work and travel and is seducing Pete's college dropout son, Alec, who is also back in town, pursuing the life of a painter in his parents' garage. Laura does not fit into Pete's idea of what's best for his son, but when Pete intervenes, things spin wildly out of control. Add to this a malpractice case, and Pete senses his life is falling apart. An astute dissector of male aspiration, Grodstein brings great insight into a father's protective urge for his son in this gripping portrait of an American family in crisis. (Nov.)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Algonquin Books; 1 edition (November 10, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1565129164
  • ISBN-13: 978-1565129160
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1.1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (335 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,108,171 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Lauren Grodstein is the author of the novel "The Explanation for Everything." Her previous novels include the New York Times bestselling "A Friend of the Family," along with "Reproduction is the Flaw of Love," and the short story collection "The Best of Animals." She teaches creative writing at the Camden campus of Rutgers University, where she helps administer the university MFA program, and lives in New Jersey, near Rutgers, with her husband and her young son. You can find out all about her - favorite books, pet projects, gardening disasters, child-raising joys - at

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

104 of 114 people found the following review helpful By Bookreporter on November 23, 2009
Format: Hardcover
By all accounts, Doctor Peter Dizinoff is living the American dream: he has risen from humble beginnings in Yonkers, New York, where his dad sold insurance and shared with Pete and his younger brother a dream of a bigger home and a better life. Through hard work and determination, Pete achieves this dream for himself as he earns a college scholarship and escapes the rough neighborhood.

While attending the University of Pittsburgh, Pete meets his eventual wife, Elaine. After college, the couple lives in a stately home in Round Hill, New Jersey, where Pete builds a thriving medical practice. Elaine, who has received a PhD in English Literature, is totally devoted to Pete. Following graduation, they manage to remain close with Joe and Iris Stern, good friends from their college days. Pete and Elaine have celebrated the births of all the Sterns' children --- from their first-born, Laura, to their other three kids --- all the while wondering why they themselves can't conceive even one child.

After years of battling infertility, Pete and Elaine are at last blessed with a son, Alec. Pete is unashamedly devoted to Alec and has pinned his hopes and dreams on his son's future. Now 20 years old, Alec has a mind of his own and a passion in art. He drops out of school to study art and lives in a studio apartment above his parents' garage...until someone from the past turns their lives upside down.

When she was a teenager, Laura Stern was accused of committing a crime so unbelievably heinous that the State of New Jersey was determined to lock her up for years. At the time, her parents believed she was mentally deficient and not responsible for her act.
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33 of 35 people found the following review helpful By BeachReader on March 25, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I read a lot of press about this book but it was a major disappointment to me. I failed to see the "great writing" about which I had read.

The anticipation was not worth the result and the writing was overly dramatic. The plot development was SO SLOW. I hated the foreshadowing and the jumping back and forth in time. Sometimes I would get a couple of sentences into a paragraph and then realize she had shifted time YET AGAIN. Annoying.

There was way too much detail, but about what?.....something the reader did not really know about, that was not revealed until the last few pages (the reason for Pete's banishment to the garage). So how are we supposed to care? By then I had lost interest. The author did not know when to stop building suspense and tell the darn story! I realized that Pete was in agonizing mental pain, loved his wife and son....but Grodstein kept beating the reader over the head with these facts. Too much manipulation by the author.

The book was full of characters I did not care about....and way too much writing about things that had nothing to do with the story and detracted from it.

The ending (from the time Pete went into NY to confront Laura to the end of the book) seemed tacked on. Her revelations made absolutely no sense and the story of Roseanne was not at all integrated into the novel --- the accusations seemed absurd given Pete's marginal interaction with her as a patient. The fallout from all of Pete's woes seemed false and forced. Not well done at all.

I usually do not stick with books to which I give two stars, but I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. My opinion: much ado about not much.
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78 of 92 people found the following review helpful By J. Cesar on October 28, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I picked this up in my local B&N on the new fiction shelf, intrigued by the inside flaps. The author wrote the novel very well, and it is pretty much a string of flashbacks/memories that lead up to the protagonists current position in life. Dr. Pete Dizinoff is currently awaiting the decisions on Tuesday that will ultimately affect the rest of his life. His relationship with his beloved wife is rocky, his ties with his long-time best-friends have been severed, his son despises him, and he is threatened with a medical malpractice lawsuit. The reader is enlightened on the events that lead up to this hurricane. And in the aftermath of the hurricane, all isn't lost but his over protection and control of his son eventually drives the two apart completely. Really a wonderful novel and I couldn't put it down. My only gripe is that it took so long to reach the meaty portion but hey, whatever.
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70 of 83 people found the following review helpful By C. Victor on November 6, 2009
Format: Hardcover
A compelling story about the unintended consequences of a parent trying to do what he thinks is best for his only son. All parents who pour all their hopes and dreams into their children will see pieces of themselves in Dr. Pete. How far will we go to protect our children. A very readable book. It will give you many things to consider, long after you have closed the cover.
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31 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Tweeds on March 12, 2010
Format: Hardcover

When I finished this book I thought .. .. HUH? Laura tells people Dr. Pete 'raped' her and given her history of mental problems, the wife (especially the wife)and son actually believe her? It just didn't make any sense! This man who stood beside her all of these years - through infertility and breast cancer - suddenly decides to rape his son's girlfriend. AND the best friend believing his daughter - and he knows the truth of her sexual past . . .What utter nonsense . . and WHAT is the problem with the son? An obnoxious character to say the least and the wife comes off as spoiled rotten. I have to say - the moment Dr. Pete hauled off and smacked Laura was most satisfying - and I'm not even a violent person:)
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