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The Other Family: A Novel Paperback – April 13, 2010

3.8 out of 5 stars 63 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

An unexpected line in a will leads to complications and new beginnings in Trollope's eminently readable latest (after Friday Nights). The novel opens outside London with the sudden death of Richie Rossiter, a once-popular pianist whose star has been on the wane for some time. Chrissie, Richie's partner for the past 23 years, is shocked to learn that Richie has left his piano and his early musical estate to his other family—Margaret, the wife he never divorced, and their son, Scott, now an aimless bachelor. Soon after, Chrissie's youngest daughter, Amy, becomes fascinated with her father's original family and his humble roots, leading to a tentative friendship with her half-brother that may result in new opportunities for both of Richie's families. At times, the grieving characters—particularly Chrissie—seem excessively distraught about trivial matters, but Trollope's keen ear for dialogue and her pointed development of secondary characters keep the novel on the safe side of overwrought, while the hopeful if too tidy conclusion highlights the sometimes surprising possibilities that can emerge in the wake of grief. (Apr.)
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From Booklist

When popular crooner Richie Rossiter dies, his longtime partner, Chrissie, is left bereft and angered that she never got Richie to divorce his first wife and marry her, providing security for her and their three daughters. In addition, money becomes a serious issue since she was his manager. Then she learns that Richie amended his will to leave a treasured piano and the rights to songs he wrote early in his career to his first wife, Margaret, and their son, Scott. Chrissie, who refused to ever fully acknowledge Richie’s first family, is left to wonder whether he actually loved her, while Margaret finds herself enormously relieved to discover that she was remembered. The prolific Trollope skillfully engineers a heartwarming story of renewal and hope as she brings the two families closer together. Scott reaches out to Chrissie’s youngest child, providing her with both comfort and a link to her dad’s childhood in Newcastle. Hurt feelings and issues of abandonment vie with the impulse to forge ahead and to heal in this intelligent and moving novel of modern family life. --Joanne Wilkinson
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Touchstone; paperback edition edition (April 13, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1439129835
  • ISBN-13: 978-1439129838
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (63 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #981,634 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By S. McGee TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 10, 2010
Format: Paperback
Trollope's forte is what I think of as domestic dramas: in her dozen or more novels, her characters (usually women of a certain age, from their 30s to the 50s or 60s) confront some kind of crisis in their lives that forces them to re-examine all they had taken for granted. Her focus is the family, in all its myriad permutations. She has a keen eye for both the poignant and the absurd, yet never allows her narrative to topple over into sentimentality or banality. These are stories of messy lives and human frailties -- not literature a la Jane Austen, certainly, and at the same time, these are the same kind of people and the same kind of outwardly-seeming banal domestic situations that Austen tackled in her time. Trollope, when she's in top form, has a keen eye for character that propels her novels from 'chick lit' territory into something better.

Happily, in this novel, she seems to back in form after several disappointing (to me, at least) novels. (I never managed to finish her last, Friday Nights.) The focus of the story is Chrissie, who lives in London with her long-time partner, Richie Rossiter, an older man and an aging pop star that women of a certain age still swoon over, and their three daughters. She wears a wedding ring -- one that she bought for herself, since Richie doesn't want to divorce his first wife, Margaret. (Although he was happy to leave her behind in Newcastle when he headed south with Cassie in search of new horizons and new audiences, decades earlier.) Left behind also was Richie's son, Scott, who becomes the focus of Margaret's life. Margaret also wears a wedding ring -- a real one -- but has no husband to go with it.
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Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
During the first few pages, I was impressed by the strong writing. The descriptions are crisp and the opening reminded me of a Rosamunde Pilcher novel. There,however, the comparison ends (unless we're talking about a bad RP novel). None of the characters are warm, interesting, or likeable. Books don't have to be all hearts and flowers, but readers need to be able to engage with at least one character at some level, and this didn't happen for me. The most likeable character is probably Amy, and she really comes across as a very predictable stereotype of a young woman finding her way. There are no real surprises here.

Nothing much seems to happen in this book. The first 50 pages---almost 20 percent of the book---are centered around a funeral. The author captures grief well, but the pace remains slow from there on out.

Even the discussion questions at the back, presumably written by the publisher, are flat--a real reflection of the book. "Does Chrissie seem like a good mother to her daughters throughout their struggle? In what ways does she change or improve as the story continues?" These sound like essay questions for kids in junior high, not prompts to inspire a lively book discussion.

And that's just it--The Other Family simply does not feel alive, and not just because it's about people who are grieving. At the very end of the book (p. 311), one sister says, "might this, might that. Why don't you ever *do* something." I'd guess (strongly) that the whole point of the book is that these families have been sleepwalking their whole lives and the death has fueled a bit of a spark to reawaken them. But the spark is simply too small, and the characters are so unlikeable, readers probably just won't care.
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Format: Paperback
I am about halfway through this book and I'm not planning to finish it. I have read almost every prior book Joanna Trollope wrote and have liked them a lot...but not this one. I don't find the characters engaging--they're too one-dimensional, too undeveloped, too flat. I just don't care enough about any of them to bother to finish the book.

The story has the potential to make a good novel, but it misses the mark. The intertwining of the two families and how they all reacted to Richie's death could have been an engrossing tale, but it just doesn't get off the ground. There needs to be a little more introspection and a little less whining and self-pity.

But I'll probably read her next book. She's capable of brilliant writing. Nobody writes a masterpiece every time.
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Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Richie Rossiter has died suddenly of a heart attack. The popular British singer/songwriter/pianist had left his first and only legal wife Margaret, a talent agent, 23 years ago when their son Scott was 14, and formed a new family with Chrissie, his much younger manager, with whom he then had three daughters, the youngest now 18. Now some totally unexpected and life-changing surprises are about to pull the rug out from under all six of his survivors, thanks to a couple of "little changes" Richie made to his will that nobody but he and his lawyer knew about. This novel is about the aftermath of all that.

My problem with the story is that I could only get really interested in two of the characters, the 37-year-old son and the 18-year-old daughter, though I eventually came to care a bit about the first wife as well. Unfortunately, the main focus of the novel is Chrissie--the woman Richie never got around to getting a divorce to marry--whose resentments here are understandable and in many ways deserved but whose relentless self-pity and lack of empathy for others hang over the story like poisoned cloud. As the story went on I found myself resenting having to spend so much time with her and her two older daughters--one of them truly awful, the other merely uninteresting. If only the novel had been centered on Scott and Amy, the two half-siblings who seem to have inherited the family's total store of wisdom, wit and character, I'm sure I'd have loved it. But it wasn't and I didn't.
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