8 bookish dysfunctional families that will make you feel better about yours

dysfunctional FamilyThanks to the holidays and festivities we have all started realizing (read as dreading) the kinda havoc that the family reunion would be unleashing this year. To get you through the myriad of unwanted questions (Any wedding bells yet? Baby in the making?) and the offensive comments (No, you can not say that word anymore) arm yourself with one of these books with the worst of dysfunctional families. At least they will make you feel better about yours.

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8) Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

What happens when you find your ‘favourite’ child’s body in the bottom of a lake?
dysfunctional familiesMeet the Lee’s, a quintessential Chinese American family from the 1970s. Jason Lee is a US-bred guy of Chinese descent who would give anything to fit in. He puts in his focus and efforts on making his daughter Lydia popular and has friends, like a normal American teenager. Marlyn Lee, his wife, an American woman who wants her daughter to achieve things that she couldn’t. Their oldest Nathan and youngest Hannah suffer their invisibility in silence. The siblings are set to determine the cause of the death of Lydia. How this broken family grieves her death in isolation and guilt under one roof forms the rest of Everything I Never Told You.

dysfunctional familiesdysfunctional FamilyThis real-life memoir of the author, talks about his childhood spent being abused by his mother. Dave as a child was beaten, starved and tortured by his emotionally unstable mother, who considered him a slave, even calling him ‘It’. He pretended everything was fine at school coming up with excuses for his bruises and stealing food from his classmates. Having two brothers who got off easy and an alcoholic father who neglected the whole situation puts the Pelzer family on my dysfunctional family list. A Child Called “It” is no book for the weak hearted.

6) The God of small things by Arundhati Roy

dysfunctional familiesdysfunctional FamilyRoy’s portrayal of the Ayemenem, Kerala in the 1970s left a nostalgic tinge when I first read years ago. But what stuck with me far deeper was their family. The main protagonists of the plot are Rahel and Estha fraternal twins who are parted by circumstances for years. As kids, they had to live with their Uncle Chacko at their late grandfather’s family estate when her mother Ammu divorced their father. Ammu is a free spirit and was not someone who would follow the rules, even for her kids. While their childhood was far from peaceful, the twins had at least each other. But an incident changes everything in their lives and now Estha doesn’t speak anymore. The God of small things will work both as a compelling tale as well as a masterful social commentary. Read my review here.

dysfunctional familiesdysfunctional FamilyIn about 50 pages Gillian Flynn makes the Burke family spooky enough to be listed on my most dysfunctional families list. Susan Burke requests our narrator to visit her house to heal their haunted house. Looking for some quick bucks she agrees, only to realize she has gotten involved in things far more than she bargained for. She realizes Susan’s teenager son Miles is creepy and wile and her house has a darker and sinister past. And even Susan is not as dumb as the narrator assumed her out to be. Read The Grownup to know more about the unreliable Burkes and I promise you won’t be disappointed. Read my review here.

4) We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

dysfunctional familiesdysfunctional FamilyA blinded father, a mother who did not want to be one, a sister who feared everything and a 15 years old psychopath who killed nine people in a high school massacre – how is that for a dysfunctional family? We Need to Talk About Kevin is written in the form of letters from Eva, a writer to her estranged husband Franklin, narrating the incidents of their lives until the day before the fated Thursday. Their son Kevin killed seven students, a cafeteria worker and a teacher who tried to befriend him two days before his sixteenth birthday. This international bestseller set in the 2000s definitely should be on your to be read list.

3) Mummy’s Little Angel by JW Lawson

dysfunctional familiesdysfunctional FamilySpeaking of bad mothers, Joanna could not love her twins Annie and Maggie any more than she already does, and as any good children do, they both compete to become their Mummy’s Little Angel. The Stokes family have faced a lot worse in the past – Joanna is mobility impaired, her husband is shot and is labelled a paedophile, one of her twins is disfigured and suffers from amnesia due to a fire accident and the other twin is blamed for it all and is imprisoned. The timing could not be any worse for her schizophrenic mother, who had abandoned her twenty years ago, to come back to their lives. What more could her daughters be hiding from her? Find out with Joanna by reading Mummy’s Little Angel. Read my review here.

2) Dark places by Gillian Flynn

dysfunctional families.dysfunctional Family7 years old Libby Day testified against 15 years old Ben, her brother in the case of the bloody massacre of her family. Their mother, Patty was shot in her head, both Patty and Debby had been slaughtered with an axe, and Michelle was strangled to death. Libby herself has been affected mentally by the event and is on medicine to help her cope. Now after twenty-five years, she visits her ghosts and tries to remember the day of the horrific event and her equally dysfunctional family or whatever is remaining. Gillian Flynn is one of my favourite authors and this definitely is one of the most disturbing books I have read, by far. Read my review here.

1) The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides

dysfunctional familiesAs far as dysfunctional families go, the Lisbon’s can easily be the toppers. With all of their five daughters committing suicides could there be a worse dysfunctional family? The strict and devout Christian mother who never let the girls out of their sight did not let them date or even attend dances except for one. Their submissive father who could not live any duller life in their all woman house did not help their case either. Once the youngest one Cecilia succeeded her attempt in committing the rest of the family came tumbling like a house of dominoes, while the entire neighbourhood watched. The Virgin Suicides is one of my favourite books to read not just for the plot but also its beautiful prose. Read my review here.

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What are your favourite families with dysfunctional families? Let me know which fictional family would make me feel a lot better about mine. And more importantly, share your secret excuses to get away from the family dinners quickly *wink wink*.

30 COMMENTS

  1. Wow, those families sound scary! When I try to think of dysfunctional families one of the first that comes to mind is the Thenardiers from the book of Les Miserables. The parents abandon most of their kids and teach any of the ones that stay with them to be thieves and murderers. Gavroche knows that they are his parents but his father doesn’t even recognize him. Another really dysfunctional family is the Wiggins from Ender’s Game. You have the psychopath older brother and the parents who have no clue what is going on.

  2. Yep, I agree the family in “The Virgin Suicides” was the height of dysfunction! Though I probably would have placed “A Child Called It” higher on the list simply because unlike others on the list, it isn’t a work of fiction.

    • As a book I liked ‘A child called IT’, but somehow the family didn’t leave me broken as much as others. I have no clue why.

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