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Family Pictures: A Novel Paperback – January 9, 1999


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; First Edition edition (January 9, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060929987
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060929985
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 5.2 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,423,147 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

If Miller's new novel does not have the shock value of The Good Mother , it benefits from a deeper, more subtle conception of character and a sure sense of the complexities of family relationships. When their third child, Randall, is diagnosed as autistic in 1954, the happy marriage of Lainey and David Eberhardt begins to disintegrate. Subscribing to then-current medical theories, David, a psychiatrist, blames Randall's disease on Lainey. She retaliates with three subsequent pregnancies, "accidents" that result in the little girls whom their father sardonically calls "the last straws." Seguing among the points of view of various family members, the narrative poignantly illustrates the widening effects of a domestic tragedy. As the Eberhardts' marriage goes awry, the children are wounded by David's emotional withdrawal and eventual departure, Lainey's hysterical need to prove she is "a good mother," and the daily pain of living with and caring for a mentally impaired sibling with powerfully destructive urges. Miller again displays a perfect ear for the dialogue between parents and children. In depicting the contrast between the Eberhardts' responses to their son's affliction--David's scientific evaluation, Lainey's spiritual courage--she demonstrates the ways in which parenthood is a "kind of reckless courage . . . a possibility for anguish and pain, and yet a miracle." 125,000 first printing; $125,000 ad/promo; BOMC main selection; author tour.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"Absolutely flawless. It captures perfectly the sass and grit of family life. Harrowing and funny and haunting." -- -- Chicago Tribune

"Dazzling and disturbing." -- -- People

"Profoundly honest, shapely, ambitious, engrossing." -- -- New York Times Book Review

"Absolutely flawless. It captures perfectly the sass and grit of family life. Harrowing and funny and haunting." -- Chicago Tribune

"Dazzling and disturbing." -- People

"Miller does an extraordinary job of representing the terrible (or wonderful), thick intimacy of family life." -- San Francisco Chronicle

"Profoundly honest, shapely, ambitious, engrossing." -- New York Times Book Review


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Customer Reviews

Many times I was ready to put this book down and not finish it.
Fuzzy Lizard
The biggest problem with Family Pictures is that is too long, and as good as the characters are, they're still lacking that third dimension.
Ms Diva
It is a simple story of a family and the events that shaped their lives.
atmj

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 16, 1998
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This is a great American novel, and one of my lifetime favorites. It is the story of how one family was forever changed because of a handicapped child, and how the entire family had to revolve around the needs of this child and his mother's selfless devotion to him, even at the expense of her marriage. She simply couldn't stop giving more of herself to him than to anyone else. This is a truly splendid book, and anyone who thinks there is trashy material in it is nuts.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Liz on March 31, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
As the mother of an autistic child, "Family Pictures" wasnot easy to read, especially due to the eventual fate of the autisticbrother, Randall.
What I would like to say is that I have read a great deal about autism. Fiction, non-fiction, text books, first hand accounts and even how-to manuals, but this book, this NOVEL, was one of the most realistic, compassionate writings dealing with autism I have ever read.
It is heartbreaking in it's total honesty of life with an autistic. It deals with decisions and sacrifices that have to be made and yet, is told with love.
END
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 8, 1998
Format: Mass Market Paperback
A friend recommended Family Pictures to me when I was learning that my son had a disorder related to autism--although the impact of Randall's diagnosis created difficulties in this family's story, he also changed their lives in positive ways. I found courage in facing my son's diagnosis through the very human response of this family to Randall's difficulties. Sue Miller's writing is compelling. I loved the scene where the family photographs are viewed and one from Randall's babyhood portends the impact he will have on the family.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Caroline W. on November 29, 2004
Format: Paperback
I have to agree with some reviewers that the author can write exquisitely. I also have to agree that I came away not totally understanding some of the characters.

Things jump around, but I'm flexible enough to follow along most times. The thing that bewildered me, however, was that the book shifts from first person to third person and back. You read the point of view of Nina, the family photographer, and settle into getting to know what you presume is the "main character". Suddenly, you flip totally out of her sphere and find she's referred to in the third person. Not only that, but she isn't the main character at all. The story is mostly about her parents. So you don't know where Nina's point of view went - or, more importantly, why it went away. It becomes "Nina's" story four short times without following any discernible structure, except (and I presume this - it isn't stated) that it's because she's a photographer and took pictures, and gave the book the title. You just have to accept that sometimes it's all about Nina. No telling why.

When it flips back to third person, the story switches back and forth between the points of view of several characters, mostly the parents and the non-autistic brother (and sometimes a third-person rather than a first-person Nina), moving the story along more or less chronologically through the 50s and 60s, then ending in the 80s where it began.

Within this shifting of time, place and viewpoint, the story describes a family whose autistic son/brother is both "not there" and omnipresent in their lives. He is the dominating influence on everyone without ever being mentally "with" them. The author describes the impact his life had on his parents' marriage and his siblings as they attempt to cope with their lives and his.

All told, even with the massive shifts in everything, I enjoyed the book, the writing, the story and the timeframe. I would certainly recommend it.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Faireheart on July 27, 2000
Format: Paperback
This book stuns me with it's detail--Miller writes like someone taking a photograph. I feel absolutely THERE when reading it, and feel as if I know every single character personally. Miller has the uncanny ability to create an almost 'voyeuristic' atmosphere in her books. I can't help but feel these characters are living and breathing. One of my all time favourites. I can't recommend it highly enough.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By R. Peterson on August 19, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Set in the 40s, 50s, and 70s, this stirring novel examines the way a large family struggles (psychologically) with the autistic child in their lives. Different chapters have different voices; either the 3rd person narrator, or of the fourth of six children, Nina. Nina has the unique perspective of being the first of the three children born after Randall, the autistic boy. An observer and a thoughtful, clever child, Nina relates, through her younger and older self, what happens to the family during her childhood years and later makes some observations about 'why'. The older children seem lost, even as adults, and the younger ones seem to understand implicitly that they are expected to be good, easy, healthy, and most importantly, "well".... to make up for Randall's "unwellness". The New York Times reviewer wrote, "Ms. Miller is particularly good at dramatizing scenes of domestic chaos and the complex interplay of adults and children... the reader is irresistibly drawn through their pain by the author's exquisite eye for psychological detail..." "Family Pictures" tells the stories of every family - the hurts and misperceptions, the survival mechanisms that any child builds and the beautiful crazy ways a family learns to live with and love each other.
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