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The Children's Crusade
by Ann Packer


Overview - From the New York Times bestselling, award-winning author of The Dive From Clausen's Pier , a sweeping, masterful new novel that explores the secrets and desires, the remnant wounds and saving graces of one California family, over the course of five decades.  Read more...

 
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More About The Children's Crusade by Ann Packer
 
 
 
Overview
From the New York Times bestselling, award-winning author of The Dive From Clausen's Pier, a sweeping, masterful new novel that explores the secrets and desires, the remnant wounds and saving graces of one California family, over the course of five decades.

Bill Blair finds the land by accident, three wooded acres in a rustic community south of San Francisco. The year is 1954, long before anyone will call this area Silicon Valley. Struck by a vision of the family he has yet to create, Bill buys the property on a whim. In Penny Greenway he finds a suitable wife, a woman whose yearning attitude toward life seems compelling and answerable, and they marry and have four children. Yet Penny is a mercurial housewife, at a time when women chafed at the conventions imposed on them. She finds salvation in art, but the cost is high.

Thirty years later, the three oldest Blair children, adults now and still living near the family home, are disrupted by the return of the youngest, whose sudden presence and all-too-familiar troubles force a reckoning with who they are, separately and together, and set off a struggle over the family's future. One by one, the siblings take turns telling the story--Robert, a doctor like their father; Rebecca, a psychiatrist; Ryan, a schoolteacher; and James, the malcontent, the problem child, the only one who hasn't settled down--their narratives interwoven with portraits of the family at crucial points in their history.

Reviewers have praised Ann Packer's "brilliant ear for character" (The New York Times Book Review), her "naturalist's vigilance for detail, so that her characters seem observed rather than invented" (The New Yorker), and the "utterly lifelike quality of her book's everyday detail" (The New York Times). Her talents are on dazzling display in The Children's Crusade, an extraordinary study in character, a rare and wise examination of the legacy of early life on adult children attempting to create successful families and identities of their own. This is Ann Packer's most deeply affecting book yet.


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Details
  • ISBN-13: 9781476710457
  • ISBN-10: 1476710457
  • Publisher: Scribner Book Company
  • Publish Date: April 2015
  • Page Count: 448
  • Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.3 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.35 pounds


Related Categories

Books > Fiction > Literary
Books > Fiction > Family Life - General
Books > Fiction > Coming of Age

 
BookPage Reviews

A family's quiet insight

Pity the quiet novel about family life. In an era when novelists are taught to write killer openings and the line between literary and genre fiction is increasingly blurred, it seems as if there’s no room for a contemplative novel that finds drama in quiet moments. Fortunately, such books are still being published, and one of the better examples is The Children’s Crusade, the new novel by Ann Packer (The Dive from Clausen’s Pier).

The story begins in the 1950s, when Michigan native Bill Blair completes a residency in pediatrics and buys 3.1 acres of undeveloped land in what will eventually be known as Silicon Valley. He marries Penny Greenway, who, at first, takes great pride in her role as a housewife. But well before their four children are adults, Penny has converted the shed on the property into an art studio and withdrawn from the rest of the family. When 38-year-old James, the youngest child, returns to California in 2006 from his current home in Eugene, Oregon, he tells his older siblings—Robert, a physician; Rebecca, a psychiatrist; and Ryan, a teacher—all of whom still live on or near the homestead, that he needs money and wants to sell the house. The novel alternates between past and present and among each sibling’s perspective to create a compelling portrait of complicated family relationships.

Packer’s strength is her ability to see meaning in small gestures, to recognize that “Are you okay?” is, in many marriages, a loaded question. Her descriptions are beautiful; she imagines the sky as being the color of a glass of water into which one has dipped a calligraphy pen. Some scenes go on too long, but the book is always perceptive about love and relationships and treats its nuanced characters with sympathy. When Robert’s boy Sammy is born, Bill gives his son advice: “Enjoy him.” The Children’s Crusade is about, among other topics, whether we enjoy our children, even when they grow up into adults whose company we might not otherwise accept. That’s the kind of insight you get in a quiet novel.

 

This article was originally published in the April 2015 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

 
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