The BUZZ: A new novel by the award-winning author of The Dive From Clausen’s Pier. An Amazon best book of April 2015.
The GIST: Spanning the decades from 1954 to present day, this is the story of the Blair family. The pediatrician father buys a beautiful piece of property in what becomes Silicon Valley, and he and his wife build a rambling house to hold their dreams. They raise four children to adulthood; in chapters told by each of them, we learn of the old wounds inflicted by a complicated and frustrating mother and an attentive but misguided father. We get the sons’ and daughter’s perspectives on their parents’ relationship to each other and to each of them. We see how these patterns and single, critical moments affect and limit each child differently. In a sense, we grow up with them and therefore come to deeply understand their tangled, shared history.
The WRITING: Clear and visceral. Packer’s writing stands out not for a particular lyrical quality but because of detailed and compassionate development of her characters and their relationships. Her descriptions of time and place and of family life are exquisite, and she captures the give-and-take nature of siblinghood through exceptional dialogue. No physical detail is too small to be included in setting each scene, and these morsels give the novel its psychological heft.
BUY or BORROW?: Buy. The Children’s Crusade is a memorable study in being human and in the families that shape our version of humanity. It’s an enlightening read, layered and complex but told in a straightforward way. In other words, it packs a punch.
The years of his life as a father had 365 days each, and the days had twenty-four hours, and while he didn’t remember all of them, he knew about them; he sensed them. Yet there were times, the present moment among them, when it seemed he’d skipped great chunks of his children’s lives and couldn’t fathom how they’d gotten so far along without his noticing.