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We Only Know So Much Paperback – June 12, 2012
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"Rebound" by Kwame Alexander
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“At last a novel from Elizabeth Crane! With her expert humorist’s eye for detail, she gives us a playful, passionate story of longing, heartbreak, and of the gargantuan human will. You won’t be able to stop reading.” (Deb Olin Unferth, author of Revolution)
“Not since The Royal Tenenbaums have I loved a family so much. The Copelands of WE ONLY KNOW SO MUCH are wonderfully eccentric, hilariously not self-aware and strangely adorable. They seemed so real, I felt like I was reading my own family story.” (Jessica Anya Blau, author of The Summer of Naked Swim Parties and Drinking Closer to Home)
“This is the kind of book that inspires a person to see the beauty in the ordinary, to stop concentrating on others’ failings long enough to see their spark and maybe rediscover his or her own.” (Susan Henderson, author of Up from the Blue)
“Crane delivers a unique and dizzying tale that delves into the emotional life of a family teetering on the brink of everything. . . . The beauty in Crane’s novel is her sweep from acid commentary to heartfelt portrayal of real-life loves and losses.” (Kirkus Reviews)
“Crane’s novel is filled with deliciously idiosyncratic characters, humorous and distinct narration, and a whole lot of personality. Each character’s emotional growth is just enough to satisfy, without being overbearing. . . . Crane’s summer novel has undeniable heart.” (Publishers Weekly)
“This is an irresistible and winsome read. A truly astute tale of love neglected and reclaimed, family resiliency, spiritual inquiries, and personal metamorphoses.” (Booklist (starred review))
“A beautiful, warmhearted, ferociously honest debut that will pull you in with its chorus of true voices and catch you off guard with its playful, restless edginess.” (Patrick Somerville, author of The Cradle and This Bright River)
“What I know for sure is this: Elizabeth Crane understands family. The simple pleasures, the daily outrage, the constant burying of secrets. Be careful what you say to your children -- they are listening. A funny and remarkable first novel.” (Marcy Dermansky, author of Bad Marie and Twins)
“Its style is literary, with an edge: The point of view is wicked, the characters prickly, the language not quite quotable here. I can’t wait to read past the first chapter.” (Los Angeles Times)
“The Copelands would feel right at home in a Noah Baumbach movie. . . . Our narrator is an omniscient ‘We’ who reports the goings-on of the family with the breathless glee of an incurable gossip.” (Entertainment Weekly)
From the Back Cover
Jean Copeland, an emotionally withdrawn wife and mother of two, has taken a secret lover—only to lose him in a moment of tragedy that leaves her reeling. Her husband, Gordon, is oblivious, distracted by the fear that he's losing his most prized asset: his memory. Daughter Priscilla (a pill since birth—don't get us started) is talking about clothes, or TV, or whatever, and hatching a plan to extend her maddening reach to all of America. Nine-year-old Otis is torn between his two greatest loves: crossword puzzles and his new girlfriend.
At the back of the house, grandfather Theodore is in the early throes of Parkinson's disease. (And he's fine with it—as long as they continue to let him walk the damn dog alone.) And Vivian, the family's ninety-eight-year-old matriarch, is a razor-sharp grande dame who suffers no fools...and still harbors secret dreams of her own.
With empathy, humor, and an unforgettable voice, Elizabeth Crane reveals what one family finds when everyone goes looking for meaning in all the wrong places.
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Top customer reviews
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But... if you do, what you'll miss is the entertaining voice of the narrator, which is truly the best thing about this book. The narrator is a character itself, in that you're constantly being told what he/she (it?) believes each of the characters is or might be thinking at any given time.
The narrative voice was as individual as the well-drawn characters themselves, so much so that near the end, I expected to find out the book was being narrated by another member of the household whose introduction was rudely overlooked. Or a pet.
(Stranger things have happened.)
At any rate, I wouldn't go so far as to call the characters quirky. In fact, they're all rather normal, in that I've met them all at one time or another. None of their actions or reactions feels like it's coming from the quirk zone--the book seems to be about the quirks that life itself has to offer, and how these particular characters react to them.
The story is basically this: a house full of family members who are all in simultaneous states self-absorption, which keeps them from communicating with one another in any meaningful way. There's no big Hollywood ending here. In fact, the end is more of a question. But that's as much as you're getting out of this reviewer.
I enjoyed this book mainly because of the "character" of the narrator, but the actual characters are all very well realized, even if none of them seem to understand who they are, or what they're supposed to be at any given moment.
But the ending was a bit too vague. I'd grown to like these characters, and I wanted a little more resolution to their respective fates.
Crane brings these characters to life in such a way that I actually missed them between readings. They each took turns annoying me, but I still wanted to know more about them. Crane describes the family dynamic very well -- the characters talk, they don't converse. Each of the characters is so wrapped up in their own affairs, in their own secret (or not-so-secret) crises that they cannot see, much less understand, that the people around them are also struggling. They're very human, but they also get chances to redeem themselves, so no one is stuck in the role of definitive villain.
The only thing that really bothered me about the book were its cultural references. Any mention of social media websites is kept vague, even though it's obvious when Crane is writing about Facebook. At one point Priscilla references Avril Lavigne as though she's still the hottest thing on the music scene, which was very strange.
Ultimately, We Only Know So Much is a great book about family, selfishness, relationships, and ambition. If you're in the mood to read a contemporary novel with deep characters and a lot of texture, this is the book for you.
Most recent customer reviews
Highly recommend this book.