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Book review: Strangers and Cousins — by Leah Hager Cohen

(Riverhead Books)
In “Strangers and Cousins,” Leah Hager Cohen has crafted a stunning novel of love, loss, family and community. Within the first few pages, I was completely taken in by the gorgeous writing style and quirky, relatable characters. In the seemingly idyllic small town of Rundle Junction, N.Y., things are not always as they seem. As Bennie and Walter prepare for the backyard wedding of their oldest daughter Clem, who is marrying her college girlfriend, it becomes increasingly clear that Clem’s agenda for this event is quite different from theirs. While the parents think they are hosting a traditional, though modern, wedding, it seems that Clem may be more interested in the performance and pageantry of the ceremony than the legal outcome. Mix in a cast of characters that includes Clem’s four year old brother, who lives entirely in a world of make-believe, her Great Aunt Glad, whose memories of a traumatic event from her childhood continue to surface, and a community in flux, and you have a thoughtful meditation on how past events influence our present and future decisions, in ways that we may not even realize. I would hand this beautifully written novel to anyone who enjoys a thoughtful family saga.
— Reviewed by Amy Graham of The Vermont Book Shop in Middlebury.
8 Familial Sagas of the Literary Type
The House of Broken Angels, by Luis Alberto Urrea
An American Marriage, by Tayari Jones
The Guest Book, by Sarah Blake
Pachinko, by Min Jin Lee
The Immortalists, by Chloe Benjamin
Little Fires Everywhere, by Celeste Ng
The Farm, by Joanne Ramos
Ask Again, Yes, by Mary Beth Keane

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