Fiction, Romance, Women's Fiction

The Family Journal, by Carolyn Brown

When you enter a newsstand at an airport, one of the writers whose books you are sure to see is Carolyn Brown. Prolific, engaging, and appealing to the masses, her style is good flight reading.

Brown aims for a middle aged female audience. Her protagonists are usually women in their forties or fifties, recently divorced or widowed, and starting over. Eventually a new romance will appear and the plot will take a redemptive turn. It’s formulaic, but it works. The Family Journal is no different.

Lily is ready for a change. Her husband has left her for a more glamorous replacement. Her two kids, Holly, age fourteen, and Braeden, age twelve, are turning more and more into modern, entitled brats. (Of course, when you give them everything and spend no time with them, it’s to be expected, right?)

Lily’s solution is to uproot the kids from their Austen, Texas apartment and move them to her grandparents’ house in the small town of Comfort. The only catch is that the house has a renter, Mack Cooper, who teaches vocational agriculture at the local high school. The plan is to share the house. Mack will be downstairs and Lily and the kids will be upstairs. The kitchen and living room will be common areas.

In the house, Lily discovers an old journal with entries from several generations of female ancestors. While the book’s title is dedicated to this find, it is a small subplot, except for the fact that Lily is now creating her own destiny and will have her own entries to add.

At this point pretty much ANY prediction you can make from the start of this plot is going to materialize later in the book. You can guess how the kids are going to react after their mother moves them away from their friends, takes away all their devices, and makes them ride the bus. You can also guess what will evolve from Lily’s family moving into the house with Mack Cooper. Secondary story-lines with Lily’s ex and Mack’s narcissistic twin brother also turn out how you’d expect. A heavy dose of karma, good and bad, for everyone.

Carolyn Brown is an above average writer. The book kept my attention and there are plenty of interesting things that happen to Lily’s family. But, aside from the extreme predictability, I chafed against a couple of things. First of all, Lily and Mack keep calling her Holly and Braeden “great kids.” They are not great kids. Parents breaking up does not give kids a free pass to behave the way these kids do–unkind, selfish, whiny, and constantly asking for this and that. I couldn’t stand them. Second, I didn’t like some of the morality and language. I find that type of writing tactic to be a crutch as a way to gain a larger reading audience.

At the end, everything, and I mean EVERYTHING was wrapped up in a nice little bow. Ladies and gentleman, we’re starting our descent. Please put your seats and tray tables in an upright position and power down your electronic devices. Thank you for flying with us. (Couldn’t help it.)

8/10 Stars

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