Tolstoy has been quoted that ‘All happy families resemble one another, each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.’ Thus, is the paradox of the family in Ann Packer’s The Children’s Crusade. When publisher, Simon & Shuster, was offering advance e-copies of this book in exchange for an honest review, I knew that, as a Packer fan, I needed to read this (I loved her previous books, especially The Dive from Clausen’s Pier; The Children’s Crusade is one of the best books I have read recently and I did not want to finish the book and leave the characters.
The property upon which the family home in Silicon Valley is purchased by patriarch, Bill, in the 50s. Soon he and wife, Penny, raise their children Robert, Rebecca and Ryan in the home. After the birth of their youngest, James, something is definitely different with Penny. As she retreats to her art, leaving the family home to pursue her art in the shed on the property, Bill is left to parent his 3 Rs and James. The children grow up, leaving the family home in their own time, but coming home for special events. Soon, though, it is not enough to just be in the shed, and Penny retreats to Taos in order to focus on her work. And, as the 3 Rs settle close to the old home (Ryan even lives in the old art shed on the property with his family), the lone J searches for something far away from the home. After Bill’s passing, an edict is made—the family house will only be sold if at least one child AND their mother, Penny, can come to an agreement. And, years later, the most un-prodigal son returns to the home to get the family convinced the home to be sold—but will he be able to bring himself to speak with Penny to make it happen?
Ann Packer examines the pull of the family home, and the concept of FAMILY within The Children’s Crusade. The sweeping novel takes place over five decades and is such a treat to read. Packer’s trademark character-driven plot, contains a rich and complex set of characters, but creates a compelling story filled will different voices that might argue, but that lend value to the story.
It was hard to pick a favorite—each of the Blairs is my ‘favorite’ character for different reasons. Bill is the kind of father I wish everyone would get to have. While he also enabled some behavior that may not have been ideal, he really puts his best efforts forward to not only a successful medical career, but to getting his children the attention they need. But, at the cost of his marriage.
The house is also a character in this novel, and without the property, I do not know if this would have been as enjoyable to read. Perhaps there is something to be said about the family home in physical form is just as important as the idea of family, itself. I was also concerned with the people who were renting the house from the family before James returned.
I really took a lot of time to focus on The Children’s Crusade and I really enjoyed the entire book. This book will consume your reading list in the best way.
Pick up your copy in hardcover, ebook or audiobook today from your favorite retailer!