I think the term “dysfunctional families” is a misnomer—aren’t all families just a little bit abnormal? That’s what makes them yours and personal. The dynamics are unique with all interactions imbued with history and shared by blood. From fictional families shrouded in secrecy and mystery to real-life tales of trauma overcome, these are all snapshots of varying domestic maladjustments, so dive in for some escapism or experience in these pages stirrings of gratefulness.
7 Books About Dysfunctional Families That Will Make You Appreciate Your Own
Walls has written what is undoubtedly one of the best memoirs about a flawed family. Her parents Rose Mary, artist with no interest in childcare, and Rex, a freewheeling addict, move the family from town to town in the Southwest due to Rex’s shenanigans. Walls portray her childhood with such grace, giving her parents a generosity that doesn’t judge their choices or demonize their behavior. She exhibits self-resilience and overcoming adversity despite them.
Jeannette Walls grew up with parents whose stubborn nonconformity was both their curse and their salvation. In this astonishing memoir—the basis of the forthcoming film starring Brie Larson—Walls recounts how her family’s dysfunction left her and her siblings to fend for themselves, weather their parents’ betrayals, and finally find the resources and will to leave home.
Read a review of THE GLASS CASTLE here.
When Libby receives a letter on her 25th birthday that lets her know she’s inherited a mansion from the birth parents she never knew, she embarks on a dark and twisty mission to uncover what happened to them and what is happening inside the confines of her new house. Told in perspectives that reveal the mysteries from the past and the current uncovering of secrets, THE FAMILY UPSTAIRS is a gothic and tense thriller full of danger and madness.
Tara Westover was born in the mountains of Idaho to survivalist parents. She did not receive a proper education, but realized in her teenage years that in order to leave her circumstances she would have to venture off to seek knowledge. As she struggled to earn her degrees, she documented verbal and physical abuse from her controlling and maniacal father, enabling mother, and violent brothers. At both an unbelievable tale of survival and inspiration, Westover triumphs in overcoming an unbearable upbringing to demonstrate the power of both a social and formal education.
When I think of horror writing, I immediately think of THE FIFTH CHILD. When Harriet and David learn they are welcoming their fifth child, their world begins to fill with unprecedented terror. Even in her pregnancy, Harriet feels something is very wrong with this child, and when Ben emerges into the world goblin-like, small, strong, and unsettling, his very existence terrorizes and eventually destroys the home that tried to care for him.
RANDOM FAMILY is a narrative nonfiction study in family dynamics, social inequality, psychology, abuse and trauma, and childhood development. Set in the South Bronx—a community entrenched in poverty—in the late 1980s and early 1990s, this book offers a look into the ways in which bonds of related and unrelated family members are defined and tested under the complexities of failing social institutions and the curses of circumstance. It’s a raw and painful portrait of how most of the population lives and struggle to survive.
Adrian Nicole LeBlanc’s riveting deep-dive into the life of a family living in the Bronx in the 1990s began when she read a newspaper clipping about the trial of a heroin dealer named Boy George. Soon she found herself meeting members of his inner circle. Despite her proximity to the story, LeBlanc never allows herself to become part of the family or puts it upon herself to become a moral compass or a tour guide; she’s a simple observer, shining a light on people who are more often than not categorized by the statistics they’ve contributed to.
Kevin Wilson writes the most endearing unstable weirdoes, and in THE FAMILY FANG he demonstrates his skills for dark humor. When siblings Annie and Buster Fang are forced to move back in with their artist parents Caleb and Camille after years of living on their own, they must confront the childhoods they intentionally left behind. Full of heart, smarts, and utter strangeness, this book is like being in a Wes Anderson film or Schitt’s Creek.
Owen King (We’re All in This Together) calls author Kevin Wilson, “the unholy child of George Saunders and Carson McCullers.” With his novel, The Family Fang, the Shirley Jackson Award-winning author of Tunneling to the Center of the Earth comes through in a BIG way, with a funny, poignant, laugh-and-cry-out-loud (sometimes at the same time) novel about the art of surviving a masterpiece of dysfunction. Meet The Family Fang, an unforgettable collection of demanding, brilliant, and absolutely endearing oddballs whose lives are risky and mischievous performance art. If the writing of Gary Shteyngart, Miranda July, Scarlett Thomas, and Charles Yu excites you, you’ll certainly want to invite this Family into your home.
After Josef, Charlie, and Armie’s father dies, these three are reunited in their childhood home in upstate New York during a hurricane. While in the middle of an actual and metaphorical upheaval, and upon learning that their father’s last wish was selling a priceless family heirloom, they must come together to honor his request. This novel is full of flawed, well-drawn characters trying to deal with the loss of their father, their grief, and each other.