Book Review: The Family Tabor by Cherise Wolas

The Family Tabor by Cherise Wolas
My rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟 (4 stars)
Publisher: Flatiron Books (July 17, 2018)


The Tabors are converging on the family home in Palm Springs to celebrate patriarch Harry's Man of the Decade award. There's much introspection going on by each family member. Harry, who is of a mind to think of his life in titan and lionized terms. All three Tabor children bring secrets with them and matriarch Roma, intends to get some of her questions answered. But much like real life, the biggest secret and turn of events is the one no one saw coming and all are unprepared for. Harry Tabor has a secret too.



I was very interested in Roma's patient, Noelani as it gave insight often to how Roma's mind worked in times of calm and crisis. This is also true of Roma's recollections of her grandmother Tatiana that were so strong in adding to the patina of who Roma was and how she rooted herself in the world. There was sadness, sageness and strength tied together with love in those parts and I loved that. I dare say, I found Roma more interesting than Harry. Sorry Harry.

I very much enjoyed Phoebe and Camille. I felt for Phoebe and the loneliness she felt the need to lie about to cover up. Her unspoken dissatisfaction with her life was a bit heartbreaking and made me think about those who are single but not because they want to be. Camille's struggle with finding her next steps in her career and personal life were very well done, including the depression she fell into and the hospice work that wound up helping her. I can't dislike a woman who hearkens back to Malinowski during her daily thought processes. Also, one of my favorite passages in the book is an observation she makes of a group of women at the gala honoring her father (The Fluttering Women). It leads her to a research topic that was compelling and given the end of the story, I felt that it'd be even more important to her. I found Simon's story the least compelling of all the Tabors and the most cliche, which is unfortunate because it seemed to be rendered as more important and deeply sincere.

I was disappointed that there's no detailed recounting of what Harry did all those years ago for which atonement was being sought. There are some cursory explanations but no real answer to the central transgression that propelled this whole thing along, felt like a cheat. I could have used an Epilogue after Simon and Max have that beautiful moment at the very end. Like seriously, can I get Owen Kauffman's article or the details from Max?

There's very good and evocative prose here and I found myself highlighting some of those I wish most to remember (alas, I read an ARC, I can't quote them here). The Tabors were a relatable family and I was glad to have got to know them a bit. I must admit that a fair bit of the sibling angst in the beginning played as tedious to me but I am an only so I take that as a lack of what I'm bringing to my reading and not a failing in the work. Later on, that abates and what really shone through is that all the Tabors love each other and will go to decent length to spare one another knowledge that will be painful. That of course, has good and bad consequences. Themes of ideas of success, elements of luck, redemption, atonement and more all play out here.

This was a quick read for me and I'd definitely recommend it. I think it'll make a great book club pick.At the end of there's a mention of a Book Club Guide and I was even interested in that (I didn't find it on the website mentioned but we are several months out from publication).

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.



Summary: Harry Tabor is about to be named Man of the Decade, a distinction that feels like the culmination of a life well lived. Gathering together in Palm Springs for the celebration are his wife, Roma, a distinguished child psychologist, and their children: Phoebe, a high-powered attorney; Camille, a brilliant social anthropologist; and Simon, a big-firm lawyer, who brings his glamorous wife and two young daughters.


But immediately, cracks begin to appear in this smooth facade: Simon hasn’t been sleeping through the night, Camille can’t decide what to do with her life, and Phoebe is a little too cagey about her new boyfriend. Roma knows her children are hiding things. What she doesn’t know, what none of them know, is that Harry is suddenly haunted by the long-buried secret that drove him, decades ago, to relocate his young family to the California desert. As the ceremony nears, the family members are forced to confront the falsehoods upon which their lives are built.

Set over the course of a single weekend, and deftly alternating between the five Tabors, this provocative, gorgeously rendered novel reckons with the nature of the stories we tell ourselves and our family and the price we pay for second chances.


But immediately, cracks begin to appear in this smooth facade: Simon hasn’t been sleeping through the night, Camille can’t decide what to do with her life, and Phoebe is a little too cagey about her new boyfriend. Roma knows her children are hiding things. What she doesn’t know, what none of them know, is that Harry is suddenly haunted by the long-buried secret that drove him, decades ago, to relocate his young family to the California desert. As the ceremony nears, the family members are forced to confront the falsehoods upon which their lives are built.

Set over the course of a single weekend, and deftly alternating between the five Tabors, this provocative, gorgeously rendered novel reckons with the nature of the stories we tell ourselves and our family and the price we pay for second chances.



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