Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Review: Sons and Daughters of Ease and Plenty

It's Labor Day 1976. Fern and Edgar Keating are ready to enjoy the last bits of summer on Martha's Vineyard with their three children. But they receive news that will change everything for their family--their money is all gone. The two parents have a huge fight when Fern assumes that Edgar will abandon his dream of being a writer in order to work with his father and support their family. Each parent runs from the conflict and the pressure of finding a solution, both assuming that the children are safe with the other. Cricket, James, and Will are left to find their own way.

Ramona Ausubel is one of my favorite authors. Her novel No One Is Here Except All of Us and short story collection A Guide to Being Born are two of my favorite books, so I was willing to follow her anywhere. In fact I bought this book in hardcover before reading it, which is a unique occurrence for this girl who usually reads and then buys. It's an even greater testament to her writing because this is not the kind of book that I would usually pick up. I tend to avoid stories of sad rich people because well, they are just not that applicable to my life and I find many of their problems obnoxious. But Ramona Ausubel has achieved some sort of literary miracle here. This whole story is about people whose lives are upended when the money runs out. Not only that, but they are parents who abandon their children. And yet I was fascinated by their lives and even sympathetic to their struggles.

The reason this book works so well is that it is the story of a relationship. In much the same way that last year's juggernaut Fates and Furies carefully revealed the inner workings of a couple, Sons and Daughters of Ease and Plenty shows how Fern and Edgar came together and how their very different families impacted the way they approached marriage and parenthood. Ausubel writes with equal grace and insight from the perspective of unfulfilled Fern, lonely Edgar, and Cricket trying to keep everything together in the absence of her parents. It's difficult to say if the writing or the characterization is the star here, but it's certain that the book is one to savor.

Sons and Daughters of Ease and Plenty
By Ramona Ausubel
Riverhead Books June 2016
320 pages
From my shelves


  1. What an awesome title! It catches my eye immediately. Like the story outline too.

    1. It is a great title! I would pick it up just from the title, if I didn't know the story.

  2. This sounds so good! And I think it does speak very highly of this author that you'd buy this in hardcover without reading it. Since I've started blogging, I almost never buy new books I've not already read either.