Family of Origin

Doubleday. Jul. 2019. 304p. ISBN 9780385544627. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9780385544634. F
Poor Elsa Grey. Late twentysomething, newly separated from her boyfriend, and not exactly happy, she’s at least far enough away from her problematic father, mother, and younger half brother Nolan—a source of pain and confusion for most of her life—to make a go of it. That all changes when she receives a phone call informing her that her father, an accomplished scientist, has drowned off the shore of a small Gulf Coast island. There, he had been doing research with a group called the Reverse Darwinists, a small, eccentric team of researchers who believe that evolution is now running in reverse. Elsa is having trouble moving beyond regrets and family issues from childhood, but she must face them now as she travels to the island with Nolan to find out what happened. Although the novel starts out slowly, it deepens and expands once we get to spend more time with Elsa in the core middle section. Hauser (The From-Aways) effectively handles Elsa’s emotionally complicated reckoning with herself and her family, charting Elsa’s journey through these dark waters with skill and insight.
VERDICT A strong psychological profile of a deeply human character; recommended for fans of complex female protagonists, psychological family dramas, and literary fiction.

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