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This Engrossing Book Grabs You and Doesn't Let Go
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