Nominated by:

Dunedin Public Libraries, New Zealand

Denver Public Library, USA

Lincoln Library, Springfield, USA

Publisher of nominated edition:

Jonathan Cape, UK

Scout Press, USA

Did You Ever Have a Family

Bill Clegg    

This book of dark secrets opens with a blaze. On the morning of her daughter’s wedding, June Reid’s house goes up in flames, destroying her entire family – her present, her past and her future. Fleeing from the carnage, stricken and alone, June finds herself in a motel room by the ocean, hundreds of miles from her Connecticut home, held captive by memories and the mistakes she has made with her only child, Lolly, and her partner, Luke.

In the turbulence of grief and gossip left in June’s wake we slowly make sense of the unimaginable. The novel is a gathering of voices, and each testimony has a new revelation about what led to the catastrophe – Luke’s alienated mother Lydia, the watchful motel owners, their cleaner Cissy, the teenage pothead who lives nearby – everyone touched by the tragedy finds themselves caught in the undertow, as their secret histories finally come to light.

Lit by the clarity of understanding that true sadness brings, Did You Ever Have a Family is an elegant, unforgettable story that reveals humanity at its worst and best, through loss and love, fracture and forgiveness. At the book’s heart is the idea of family – the ones we are born with and the ones we create – and the desire, in the face of everything, to go on living.

(from publisher)

About the Author

Bill Clegg is a literary agent in New York and the author of the bestselling memoirs Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man and Ninety Days. He has written for the New York Times, Esquire, New York magazine, the Guardian and Harper’s Bazaar.

Librarians’ Comments

Just wonderful – even if you don’t like stories told from the point of view of different narrators. This is an amazing book, full of life, death, love and change. Big concepts, but distilled by the author into small scenes of almost unbearable intimacy.

Clegg’s powerful novel tells the story of June Reid who has lost her entire family in a tragic fire the night before her daughter’s wedding. This emotionally devastating story is vividly told with a focus on the relationships that connect us to each other.

In his debut novel, Clegg looks at what happens after an unimaginable tragedy strikes a middle aged woman, June Reid. June runs as far away as possible from her grief and guilt. Different characters, all connected to June’s past and present, narrate the story. Clegg is adept at giving each one a distinct voice and purpose. Powerful and well-written, the novel explores each characters vulnerability, individuality and choices, good or bad.

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