Family dramas have quickly become one of my new favorite genres of books. Call me crazy, but I love stepping into the fictional chaos of other people’s lives. And the messier and more complicated the tale, the better. We Are The Brennans by Tracey Lange is a great example of a messy family novel, so read on if that’s your sort of read.
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Five years ago, Sunday Brennan ran all the way to Los Angeles to escape her past, and she hasn’t looked back since. But fate has a way of intervening, and after a few too many drinks one night everything changes. Next thing she knows, she’s standing in front of her childhood home about to walk into the firestorm that is her large Irish-American family. Can she face her family after everything she’s done? One foot ahead of the other, she bravely embraces the new landscape that is her life.
Despite her protests that her homecoming is only temporary, her oldest brother, Denny, is determined to keep her back in New York no matter the cost. So, he does what he does best; he puts her to work trying to make some sense of the chaotic financials of the once thriving family-owned pub. This is an especially important task considering they are opening a brand new location in a few weeks. To Denny, everything is riding on the success of the new pub, so he needs Sunday’s help more than ever. In the process of trying to clean up Denny’s mess, Sunday discovers is she’s not the only one with secrets.
But coming home isn’t just a family affair. Sunday hasn’t seen her high-school sweetheart, Kale, since abruptly moved West, leaving him in the lurch. Their first encounter is tense, proving to Sunday that there’s still unsettled business. Despite the anger and pain he feels toward Sunday, the feelings they share for each other are as strong as ever, making things complicated for Kale, who’s moved on in the intervening years. But what Kale doesn’t know is that Sunday’s not completely to blame for her abrupt departure.
In the days leading up to the grand opening, everyone’s feeling the pressure. Kale’s being asked to disentangle himself from the Brennan’s, who are like his own family. Denny is desperate to repair his own relationship. And Sunday’s trying hard to keep her past hidden. But when an old enemy winds up dead, everyone is a suspect. Soon, the family’s secrets are out in the open for all to see.
My Thoughts on We Are The Brennans
This book wasn’t my favorite, but I definitely enjoyed aspects of it. We Are The Brennans has a lot of potential, which is why I still recommend it to lovers of family dramas. There is a lot of suspense toward the end, which ultimately, in my opinion, doesn’t lead to a big payoff. But the dynamics between the characters is where the story truly shines.
What I really enjoyed about this book was the relationship between the family members, including the outsider, Kale. I loved that the author chose to use a big Irish American family as her group of protagonists. The complexity of the individual characters adds layers to the story, making it hard to put this one down. And the cultural elements (family secrets, use of religion, classism, etc) felt authentic and relatable.
I can’t write about We Are The Brennans without mentioning my least favorite part of the book. As I was reading I kept wondering what could have made Sunday abruptly leave home and run away from what sounds like a perfect relationship with Kale? I expected her secret to by mind-blowing, really traumatic and dark. But when the truth is finally revealed, it seems somewhat benign, leaving me wondering how realistic it was to uproot her whole life because of that? Maybe I’m cynical, but I wanted more of a bombshell than what I got.
My Rating for We Are The Brennans
Overall, I found this book highly enjoyable, but it definitely didn’t knock my socks off the way it could have. It’s still a recommended read though. The character development and familial drama elevates the book despite a somewhat disappointing finish. Regardless, I think lovers of family dramas will like We Are The Brennans. Have you read this one? What did you think? Let me know your thoughts below in the comments. (Pssst: if you’re curious about my book rating system, check out this post!)
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