Hyphenated Relations

Daniel Maunz

Family dynamics always make for good fiction. Sam’s life in interrupted by a surprise visit from her former father-in-law’s invitation to his engagement party. He and Sam were united by the tragedy of her husband and his wife being killed in a car accident. Though Sam reluctantly attended the party, what she found was family who raised dysfunction to a new level. Harold was to be husband number five. The other four had died, and Marcie had a child with three of them, and adopted the fourth’s daughter. The four children lived separate lives, connected only by their mother. An only child, Sam is intrigued by their relationships with one another. During the process, Sam becomes close to Marcie. When the discontented children unite to stop the wedding, Sam steps in as a mediator.

Readers will no doubt recognize members of their own families in this story as it carries many truths. Reclusive since her husband’s death, Sam is shocked by Harold’s invitation. Gregarious and outgoing, Harold’s boisterous behavior tended to put Sam on edge, and she typically avoided him. Suspicious that Marcie is a black widow, Sam agrees to meet the family. As her relationship with Marcie grows, however, Sam finds herself changing in unexpected ways, including her feelings for Harold. Bumping heads with the dysfunctional siblings educates her in family dynamics. Dominating the story line is grief, and its various effects on everyone. This book illustrates how some people change and some just stagnate. Readers may find the psychological impact for them as strong as it is for the characters.

Leah Neale