The Floating Feldmans

Berkley. Jul. 2019. 368p. ISBN 9780399586897. pap. $16ebk. ISBN 9780399586903. F
In this third novel from Friedland (after The Intermission), three generations of the semiestranged Feldman family reluctantly come together to celebrate matriarch Annette’s 70th birthday with a Caribbean cruise. Annette’s hopes for a week of family bonding seem doomed from the start. Each member of her fractured family has a secret. Her husband, David, a retired physician, now battling cancer, insists that they keep his illness from their adult children and grandchildren. Their black sheep eldest son, Freddy, suddenly seems to have some liquidity—and an incongruously beautiful younger girlfriend. Their daughter, once a brilliant student, seems lost. Elise’s goyish husband, Mitch, has made a major life decision without telling his wife. The couple’s teenage children are completely opaque to parents and grandparents alike. Over the course of a truly terrible seven-day excursion, all of their secrets will come out.
VERDICT Friedland’s well-executed and smartly structured novel features chapters from each character’s point of view. The simple but clever premise lets the author explore the complicated tensions of family relationships in a compressed and directed way. Narcissistic and sometimes unlikable protagonists can be hard to sympathize with, but there is dry humor and a certain sweetness as well.

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