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104 of 114 people found the following review helpful
on November 23, 2009
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. Convinced of her innocence and willing do everything in their power to keep her out of prison, the Sterns, especially Joe, risked their future to protect Laura.

After several years pass, Laura comes back home, and Alec immediately becomes fascinated with her and wants to follow her wherever she leads him. But Pete is determined to save his son from himself --- and especially from Laura's influence. During the turmoil of Laura's return, Pete becomes distracted from his practice and falls from grace. He is threatened with a medical malpractice suit and charged with a horrendous crime. As his life is spinning out of control, Pete readily admits, "I never was as grateful as I should have been for everything I had." There's a poignant message to be taken away from this story, one made all the more clear as you near the end.

A FRIEND OF THE FAMILY is a gripping novel with a mystery at its core. Lauren Grodstein has written a compelling story with unforgettable characters in unenviable situations. A story of love, control, friendship, courage and the sacrifices fathers make to protect their children, this engrossing book grabs you and doesn't let go.

--- Reviewed by Donna Volkenannt
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33 of 35 people found the following review helpful
on March 25, 2010
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
on October 28, 2009
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
on November 6, 2009
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
on March 12, 2010
SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW:

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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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on June 11, 2010
I wasn't crazy about this book. There's some good writing here, especially in the first, say, two-thirds of the book (the protagonist is particularly well drawn), but once I had finished the book I was actually... resentful...yes, resentful and almost angry that I had spent (wasted?) almost an entire vacation day on a book that has such a poorly rendered ending, with lots of loose ends left flapping in the wind, and lacking the kind of emotional punch I had hoped for. And, I'm not one to look for happy resolutions, but the end just felt like a major letdown. Even if this isn't true, it felt to me like Ms. Grodstein had a deadline to meet and was just trying to wrap stuff up quickly in order to conclude the novel. By the end, I didn't care about the characters or feel like I had any connection to them; the revelations in the climactic scene and the motivations behind some of the main characters' actions were inscrutable to me.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
From the very first page and the well-executed movement from flashbacks within flashbacks, Lauren Grodstein captured my full attention. Narrated by the main character, Peter Dizinoff, M.D. an internist who believes he is liberal but wants a conservative, orderly life, the story is a both a mystery and the derailment of a family.

Centered around Dizinoff's family: wife Elaine and son Alec interacting and bonding with the Stern Family who have four children, they experience profound problems with Alec and the Stern's oldest daughter, Laura. Joe Stern is also an M.D., but he is a specialist, and Pete Dizinoff feels he is not quite as brilliant as the specialists. This story provides us with many observations and medical ranking is one of them. The novel opens when Pete's world is crashing down on him, he may be tried for malpractice, he has lost his upscale suburban offices and is relegated to sleeping above the family's garage. How did this all happen? Grobstein's flashback technique and use of nostalgia is brilliant.

Fraught with Alec's college drop out status and his obsession with his only child, a strong plot unfolds when Laura Stern returns to the Stern family after her wanderings. Her history (not to spoil the story) implodes her family and now directly affects Pete and his only child. Pete's obsession with Laura and her past consume him and can capsize his marriage and the flimsy connection to his only child. At one point, Pete describes Laura "and she ran a carcinogenic hand up and down my son's bare wrist."

There is also a Jewish family culture, which impacted the Dizinoffs and the Sterns. The two couples were brought up in strong Jewish homes with smart, loving parents and had been rather observant in their religion. As they grew into successful adults, they may have lost some of the rituals but they hung onto some Jewish guilt, fierce protection of their children and unfailing pursuit of education as a means to success. Their passion for the families is a steady fixation. I had a hard time putting this book down.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on December 21, 2009
This novel is a beautiful portrayal of the desperation of desire, the innocence of love and the pain of loss. A pleasure to read for the entire duration, I have bought copies to give to all of my extended family for the holiday season. Grodstein is an emerging new voice of incredible depth and perception; funny at times, I laughed out loud, then nearly set to sobbing. A fine piece of literature and an intuitive look into our own prejudices, mistakes and sense of community.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on December 20, 2009
Lauren Grodstein deserves her starred review and all the praise that's been heaped on her. With "A Friend of the Family," Grodstein achieves a difficult literary challenge: creating a first-person protagonist who goes from sympathetic to despicable in the course of the book. Like Philip Roth, Grodstein finds great drama in seemingly conventional New Jersey Jewish family. She layers in backstory and cultural history with the deft touch of a true pro.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on February 1, 2010
I was greatly disappointed by the time I made my way through this novel. Now, I have to quickly add that the writing was incredibly good. Excellent. Compelling. The problem: at the end, the story was way too predictable and the payoff left me cold and wanting something else to happen.
I cannot recommend this book, unless you want to study good writing. Sad to say, sometimes excellent writing doesn't trump a cliche, predictable story.
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