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All in the Family Paperback – January 1, 2012
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About the Author
I live in Virginia, where I am a writer and an editor. I also have a master's degree in deaf education. In my free time, I hike and savor frappuccinos. Fact One: I like corny jokes. If you have any good ones, send them my way! Fact Two: My favorite color is purple, but my writing is gray. Life is not black and white. I often write about issues and characters where there is no "right" answer. Fact Three: I'm weird. I like being weird.
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On a simple level: the romance. I'm not feeling it. The characters fall in love practically overnight while not really interacting that much. I have no clue where that is coming from.
The characters. Not well-developed, some are more caricatures than fully-realized characters (the parents). The mother especially. For the main characters I sometimes had to remember their age. They were not acting 17. The language especially was not age-appropriate.
At the same time the book is filled with different topics. The romance between two teenage stepsisters, one of them is deaf and the deafness is an issue in the family (I enjoyed that part), the sexual abuse of one of them and the resulting problems with her mother, not to mention that she has a son from that abuse. Too much to handle at once apparently.
And lastly, and that was a real disappointment, the writing is kind of a mess. Very stilted all the way through, at times sounding like bad fanfiction. Way too descriptive, way too many points of view. Every character has a say, mostly presented in the way of inner monologue. Ugh.
I had similar issues with the re-issue of this author's The Odd Couple, a book I loved when it was first published (by a publisher). The re-write it was given didn't work for me, and here, too, it reads like the book wasn't edited.
Allison was raped at the age of 12 and was a mother at 13. She is 16 when the story opens and is trying to keep her life together. Her mother, who is raising Allison's son as her own, becomes engaged to Sam's father. Sam is at a military boarding school and comes home for a visit to find that her father is re-marrying and she is now part of a family that defines the word dysfunctional.
Allison knows she is gay and finds herself drawn to Sam based on a photograph. She learns sign language in order to communicate with Sam who has been profoundly deaf her entire life. Sam falls hard for Allison and learns to love her and her son while doing her best to cope with Allison's mother.
The story covers a span of 5.5 years in the lives of the characters and they go through ups and downs caused by their own misunderstandings and the interference of others.
I would have liked to know a bit more of the life Sam leads away from her family while she was at boarding school. This would be a huge part of the character's life and is not addressed at all. My main criticism of the story is that when Allison turns to alcohol to cope with her separation from Sam and a rejection from her son the issue is not dealt with realistically. It is not a problem that is resolved as easily as the author has done here.
Ms. Kelly is an author who specializes in awkward relationships and manages to make what may seem a bizarre set of circumstances acceptable to her readers.
Criticisms aside these are characters you can like and I think you'll enjoy their story.
It is fun to watch the main character grow. It is, also, fun to watch her new blended family grow and stretch around each other and away from each other. Her new stepsister is the most interesting of all. She has been to hell and back with her own mother, a sexually abusive ex step father, and the resultant pregnancy as a pre-teen and all the layers of life decisions this poor girl had to make as a child. Q Kelly brings her to life also.
This is a most amazing book. Thank goodness for a sleepless night so I could read this in one night. I read using text-to-speech on my Kindle. That leaves my hands free to do other things so I got distracted on my first try reading this. I got all the way to 9% when I realized I had the people mixed up and couldn't tell who was who. So I started over and concentrated, actually looking at the words being read to me and finally got it. I don't think that was the author's fault. I think it was mine. But re-reading that part made the characters and the set up more concrete. Now I was invested in these characters and cared.
My only problem with the book is what happened to the son. There is a gun issue and I don't want to put out any spoilers but I had hoped for a more in depth healing for that child. He begins to sound like a future bad guy. Is it just me?
Anyway, I think everyone should read this book. It helps give the reader that mile in someone else's shoes. It increases love and understanding of fellow travelers on this road of life. Thanks, Q Kelly!