Title: Did You Ever Have a Family
Author: Bill Clegg
Publisher: Scout Press, and imprint of Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: August 2015
Synopsis from Goodreads:
On the eve of her daughter’s wedding, June Reid’s life is completely devastated when a shocking disaster takes the lives of her daughter, her daughter’s fiancé, her ex-husband, and her boyfriend, Luke—her entire family, all gone in a moment. And June is the only survivor. Alone and directionless, June drives across the country, away from her small Connecticut town. In her wake, a community emerges, weaving a beautiful and surprising web of connections through shared heartbreak. From the couple running a motel on the Pacific Ocean where June eventually settles into a quiet half-life, to the wedding’s caterer whose bill has been forgotten, to Luke’s mother, the shattered outcast of the town—everyone touched by the tragedy is changed as truths about their near and far histories finally come to light.
Easily the most heart-breaking novel I’ve read this year, Did You Ever Have a Family is a tragic and intense depiction of recovery after incredible tragedy. This small town is struck by a tragedy when a family is lost in the blink of an eye. Clegg’s story introduces many key family members affected by the tragedy. June, the owner of the house, has lost her daughter, her boyfriend, her ex-husband, and her soon to be son-in-law. She’s lost her home, her family, and everything she knows. She is not the only mother affected by this tragedy, but her loss is so great and debilitating.
I won’t give anything away, but this book’s cover is a tribute to a small, yet incredibly significant moment in the story that is both profound and moving. I thought nothing of this cover when I first saw it, but knowing realizing how it connected to the June and to the story as a whole, I have really come to appreciate the designer’s decision.
It’s impossible to say I enjoyed this novel because it’s so incredible sad. What is so perfect about this story is its reflection of grief and how it manifests in different ways. It is intensely real and it’s a story that hangs with you long after you’ve read the final page. When you’ve lost everything, you remember all of those moments that you cherished, but also those you regret. There is so much unfinished business and moments that characters wish they could go back and change. This story makes you realize how connected our lives are with those of our friends and family. It reminds us how our words and actions affect those around us, and some things can never be undone. We live in a world where we think we have all the time in the world to fix things, but in all reality, we can never say for certain that we will wake up tomorrow. Clegg’s story is an intense reminder to cherish the relationships you have, to respect those in your life, and to live as though every day is a gift.