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10 Family Novels as Warm and Fuzzy as Your Favorite Sweater

November 26 2020

As the weather gets colder, and the holidays get closer, I start to yearn for family stories and books that make me feel warm and fuzzy. I would like the world to think that I’m all thrillers and horror novels all the time, but let’s be honest, I’m secretly an ooey-gooey chocolate chip cookie and sometimes I want books that feel the same way. These ten books are packed with love and drama and are sure to leave your heart full.

Bear Necessity
by James Gould-Bourn

This story is genuinely hilarious and so incredibly sweet. Honestly, I’m obsessed. Danny’s life is falling apart. He became a single dad a year ago after the death of his wife in a car accident. His eleven-year-old son, Will, hasn’t spoken a word since, and Danny’s just been fired from his job. Grieving, worried about his son, and unable to pay rent, Danny does something absurd. He buys a tattered old panda costume and takes to the park with the hope of making money as a street performer. While performing as a dancing bear one day, he sees his son being bullied and successfully scares off his tormentors. And for the first time in a year, his son opens up to him, completely unaware that he’s talking to his father. Danny comforts his son but doesn’t reveal his true identity. Now Danny is worried that he’ll lose Will’s trust if he comes clean, and of course, he still needs to dance his way out of debt. Danny cares so much for his son that the story really jumps off the page.

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Bear Necessity
James Gould-Bourn

A heartwarming, poignant, and charming debut novel for fans of Nick Hornby and The Rosie Project, about a father and son overcoming their grief in surprisingly inventive ways.

Danny’s life is falling apart. He’s become a single father to eleven-year-old Will—who hasn’t spoken since the death of his mother in a car crash a year earlier—and Danny has just been fired from his construction job. To make matters worse, he’s behind on the rent and his nasty landlord is threatening to break his legs if he doesn’t pay soon. Danny needs money, and fast.

After observing local street performers in a nearby park, Danny spends his last few dollars on a tattered panda costume, impulsively deciding to become a dancing bear. While performing one day, Danny spots his son in the park, and chases off the older boys who are taunting him. Will opens up for the first time since his mother’s death, unaware that the man in the panda costume is his father. Afraid of disclosing his true identity, Danny comforts his son. But will Danny lose Will’s trust once he reveals who he is? And will he be able to dance his way out of debt, or be beaten up before he has a chance?

Filled with a colorful cast of characters, Bear Necessity is a refreshingly unpretentious and ultimately uplifting story of a father and son reconnecting in the most unlikely of circumstances.

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MENTIONED IN:

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Musical Chairs
by Amy Poeppel

Amy Poeppel is hilarious and has never failed to make me laugh and cry, sometimes simultaneously. MUSICAL CHAIRS is no exception. There is so much heart in this book, in my mind, it’s almost impossible not to love it. Bridget and Will are the perfect couple, except for the being a couple part. They are best friends though, and for three decades they’ve nurtured the Forsyth Trio, the chamber group they started at Juilliard together. Bridget’s cozy summer plans are suddenly upended when her boyfriend breaks up with her over email and her twin twentysomething children arrive unannounced with their own set of problems. And to make matters worse, her father has announced he’s getting married again. Bridget hopes to use the wedding as a chance to bring her chamber group back into the spotlight. Of course, in order to do that, they’ll need to bring back Gavin, their original violinist and the only one of their trio to become a true classical music star. Crazy families, friends, and feuds, MUSICAL CHAIRS is the perfect book if you’re looking for a heartwarming read.

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Musical Chairs
Amy Poeppel

“A fiercely funny tale of family, friendship, and later-in-life love.” —People

“Poeppel has created a story that is well thought out, well plotted, well written, and fully developed. A delightful novel that celebrates the messiness and joy to be found in real life.” Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“A hilariously heartfelt, witty novel.” —Woman’s World

The “quick-witted and razor-sharp” (Taylor Jenkins Reid, New York Times bestselling author of Daisy Jones & The Six) author of Limelight and Small Admissions returns with a hilarious and heartfelt new novel about a perfectly imperfect summer of love, secrets, and second chances.

Bridget and Will have the kind of relationship that people envy: they’re loving, compatible, and completely devoted to each other. The fact that they’re strictly friends seems to get lost on nearly everyone; after all, they’re as good as married in (almost) every way. For three decades, they’ve nurtured their baby, the Forsyth Trio—a chamber group they created as students with their Juilliard classmate Gavin Glantz. In the intervening years, Gavin has gone on to become one of the classical music world’s reigning stars, while Bridget and Will have learned to embrace the warm reviews and smaller venues that accompany modest success.

Bridget has been dreaming of spending the summer at her well-worn Connecticut country home with her boyfriend Sterling. But her plans are upended when Sterling, dutifully following his ex-wife’s advice, breaks up with her over email and her twin twenty-somethings arrive unannounced, filling her empty nest with their big dogs, dirty laundry, and respective crises.

Bridget has problems of her own: her elderly father announces he’s getting married, and the Forsyth Trio is once again missing its violinist. She concocts a plan to host her dad’s wedding on her ramshackle property, while putting the Forsyth Trio back into the spotlight. But to catch the attention of the music world, she and Will place their bets on luring back Gavin, whom they’ve both avoided ever since their stormy parting.

With her trademark humor, pitch-perfect voice, and sly perspective on the human heart, Amy Poeppel crafts a love letter to modern family life with all of its discord and harmony. In the tradition of novels by Maria Semple and Stephen McCauley, Musical Chairs is an irresistibly romantic story of role reversals, reinvention, and sweet synchronicity.

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This Is Home
by Lisa Duffy

Amazing writing, with a few great life lessons thrown in, THIS IS HOME is sure to leave you with a fuzzy feeling. We don’t always get to pick our family and our living situations, but every so often someone stumbles into our lives and makes it a little bit better. After the death of her mother, Libby finds herself crammed into the middle apartment of their triple-decker home with her father, Bent. Bent’s two sisters, Lucy and Desiree, live in the top apartment. With her father working most nights, Libby finds herself passed between the two apartments wishing she could live anywhere else. So when Quinn Ellis moves into the first-floor apartment, Libby can’t help but resent her for filling up their already crowded home. Quinn has her own troubles: her husband, who served two tours in Iraq and suffers from PTSD he refuses to address, suddenly goes missing at home. Despite their troubles, Libby and Quinn form an unlikely friendship and redefine what family means.

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This Is Home
Lisa Duffy

From the author of book club favorite The Salt House comes a deeply affecting novel about a teenage girl finding her voice and the military wife who moves in downstairs, united in their search for the true meaning of home.

Sixteen-year-old Libby Winters lives in Paradise, a seaside town north of Boston that rarely lives up to its name. After the death of her mother, she lives with her father, Bent, in the middle apartment of their triple decker home—Bent’s two sisters, Lucy and Desiree, live on the top floor. A former soldier turned policeman, Bent often works nights, leaving Libby under her aunts’ care. Shuffling back and forth between apartments—and the wildly different natures of her family—has Libby wishing for nothing more than a home of her very own.

Quinn Ellis is at a crossroads. When her husband John, who has served two tours in Iraq, goes missing back at home, suffering from PTSD he refuses to address, Quinn finds herself living in the first-floor apartment of the Winters house. Bent had served as her husband’s former platoon leader, a man John refers to as his brother, and despite Bent’s efforts to make her feel welcome, Quinn has yet to unpack a single box.

For Libby, the new tenant downstairs is an unwelcome guest, another body filling up her already crowded house. But soon enough, an unlikely friendship begins to blossom, when Libby and Quinn stretch and redefine their definition of family and home.

With gorgeous prose and a cast of characters that feel wholly real and lovably flawed, This Is Home is a nuanced and moving novel of finding where we belong.

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The Optimist's Guide to Letting Go
by Amy E. Reichert

As someone who has a really strong relationship with her mother, I love the strong bonds that are represented in this book even when everyone doesn’t always get along. This book is also full of strong female characters that really stand on their own and make this such a joy to read. Gina is an optimist, with an always sunny outlook on life. A fact that seems to irritate both her mother, Lorianne, and her teenage daughter, May. But Gina can’t help it, so instead she takes comfort in making lists and working at Grilled G’s, her late husband’s gourmet grilled cheese food truck. But when her mother suffers a stroke, Gina stumbles upon a family secret that might just be the thing that lets her move on.

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The Optimist's Guide to Letting Go
Amy E. Reichert

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The Museum of Forgotten Memories
by Anstey Harris

THE MUSEUM OF FORGOTTEN MEMORIES is enchanting and full of imagination. I felt instantly invested in the story and in Hatters Museum as Cate struggles to rebuild her life. The setting of this book makes for an incredibly unique and often hilarious look at family and grief and hope. Cate and Richard were perfect for each other, but eventually Richard’s demons caught up with him and he disappeared altogether. Now four years after Richard’s death, Cate is let go from her job and can’t afford rent in London for her and her son, Leo. So together, they head to Hatters Museum of the Wide Wide World that belonged to Richard’s grandfather. Despite the crotchety caretaker and a few bumps here and there, Cate falls in love with the place. She soon makes it her mission to revive the museum, but in doing so she’ll have to confront Richard’s death and her role in it.

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The Museum of Forgotten Memories
Anstey Harris

“Moving.” —Booklist (starred review)

At Hatters Museum of the Wide Wide World, where the animals never age but time takes its toll, one woman must find the courage to overcome the greatest loss of her life.

Four years after her husband Richard’s death, Cate Morris is let go from her teaching job and unable to pay rent on the London flat she shares with her son, Leo. With nowhere else to turn, they pack up and venture to Richard’s ancestral Victorian museum in the small town of Crouch-on-Sea.

Despite growing pains and a grouchy caretaker, Cate begins to fall in love with the quirky taxidermy exhibits and sprawling grounds, and she makes it her mission to revive them. But threats from both inside and outside the museum derail her plans and send her spiraling into self-doubt.

As Cate becomes more invested in Hatters, she must finally confront the reality of Richard’s death—and the role she played in it—in order to reimagine her future. Perfect for fans of Katherine Center and Evvie Drake Starts Over.

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The Most Fun We Ever Had
by Claire Lombardo

This book really gets at the heart of what it means to be a sister and what it means to be in a marriage. THE MOST FUN WE’VE EVER HAD is about a deeply dysfunctional family, but despite all their faults this book is really full of joy. When Marilyn Connolly and David Sorenson fell in love, they never predicted what their future would hold. Now in 2016, they have four vastly different adult daughters who live with the fear that they won’t find love like their parents. The story really takes a tumultuous turn when Jonah Bendt arrives—a long-lost son that one of the daughters had given up fifteen years before.

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The Most Fun We Ever Had
Claire Lombardo

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Slightly South of Simple
by Kristy Woodson Harvey

I love Kristy Woodson Harvey, and while her books definitely cater to a lot of romance fans, they are still incredibly family oriented and packed with simple heartfelt moments. This book makes me happy, like staying in a full beach house ready to celebrate the summer with the people I love. Caroline is a New Yorker born and bred and swore never to return to the small town of Peachtree Bluff her mother moved her to during her senior year of high school. But when her high society marriage falls apart in a very public and embarrassing way, she decides she needs an escape. So Caroline finds herself back in Peachtree Bluff with her mother, Ansley, and her nine-year-old daughter. Ansley has always put her daughters first, but with her own design business and place in Peachtree Bluff, she finally feels like she has a life of her own. So when her other two daughters, Sloane and Emerson, also show up, Ansley can’t help but feel like a piece of herself is slipping away again. This book is full of love, family drama, secrets, and of course southern charm.

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Slightly South of Simple
Kristy Woodson Harvey

NATIONAL BESTSELLER
*Glitter Guide’s “Must Reads for April”
*PopSugar’s “Ultimate Summer Reading”
*Bustle’s Books to Read and Discuss With Your Mom and Grandma
*New York Live’s “Ashley’s A-List” Pick

“One of the hottest new Southern writers.” —Parade

From the next “major voice in Southern fiction” (Elin Hilderbrand, New York Times bestselling author) comes the first in an all-new series chronicling the journeys of three sisters and their mother—and a secret from their past that has the potential to tear them apart and reshape their very definition of what it means to be a family.

Caroline Murphy swore she’d never set foot back in the small Southern town of Peachtree Bluff; she was a New York girl born and bred and the worst day of her life was when, in the wake of her father’s death, her mother selfishly forced her to move—during her senior year of high school, no less—back to that hick-infested rat trap where she'd spent her childhood summers. But now that her marriage to a New York high society heir has fallen apart in a very public, very embarrassing fashion, a pregnant Caroline decides to escape the gossipmongers with her nine-year-old daughter and head home to her mother, Ansley.

Ansley has always put her three daughters first, especially when she found out that her late husband, despite what he had always promised, left her with next to nothing. Now the proud owner of a charming waterfront design business and finally standing on her own two feet, Ansley welcomes Caroline and her brood back with open arms. But when her second daughter Sloane, whose military husband is overseas, and youngest daughter and successful actress Emerson join the fray, Ansley begins to feel like the piece of herself she had finally found might be slipping from her grasp. Even more discomfiting, when someone from her past reappears in Ansley's life, the secret she’s harbored from her daughters their entire lives might finally be forced into the open.

Exploring the powerful bonds between sisters and mothers and daughters, this engaging novel is filled with Southern charm, emotional drama, and plenty of heart.

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Little Women
by Louisa May Alcott

I couldn’t write a list of heartwarming family stories without including LITTLE WOMEN somewhere on it. The March sisters are each strong in their own ways and full of love for one another. This story is all about family relationships and the trials and tribulations of the March sisters. Set during the Civil War, LITTLE WOMEN follows the talented and headstrong Jo, beautiful and brilliant Meg, frail but emotionally strong Beth, and the deeply romantic but spoiled Amy. If you have yet to read LITTLE WOMEN, I and many, many others cannot recommend it enough. The struggles and emotional depth and familial relationships that Alcott paints are timeless.

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Little Women
Louisa May Alcott

A stunning new edition with deluxe cover treatments, ribbon markers, luxury endpapers and gilded edges. The unabridged text is accompanied by a Glossary of Victorian and Literary terms produced for the modern reader.

The lives of four teenage sisters – Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy – unfold in this treasured classic. Living in Massachusetts the March sisters are struggling though poverty and the effects of the American Civil War, which has taken away their father. Through happy and sad times, the sisters pull together with help from their mother, Marmee. Despite squabbles and desperate times, the sisters have a contagious sense of fun that leads to many adventures and eventually they learn exactly what it takes to grow up. Little Women was released in 1868 to commercial success and favourable reviews from critics. It has since become a true literary classic, made into countless adaptations, and a worldwide success that is loved by many.

The FLAME TREE COLLECTABLE CLASSICS are chosen to create a delightful and timeless home library.

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Summer of '69
by Elin Hilderbrand

Set in Nantucket in 1969, this family drama story has a twinge of historical fiction thrown in. The setting really comes alive. The year itself almost feels like another character, truly transporting you back in time. The Levin family loves spending their summers in Nantucket, but this year things are different. Blair is stuck in Boston, pregnant and unable to travel. Kirby dedicates herself to the civil rights movement and takes a job at Martha’s Vineyard instead. And Tiger, the only son, has just been deployed as an infantry soldier to Vietnam. Which leaves thirteen-year-old Jessie stuck in the house with her anxious mother and out-of-touch grandmother as the world around them changes drastically. Hilderbrand expertly weaves the cultural and historical drama of the era with the personal drama of the Levin family.

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Summer of '69
Elin Hilderbrand

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The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes
by Anna McPartlin

If you want a story about family and friends rallying together, a book that will make you cry but also warm your heart and make you cherish the life you have, then you need to read THE LAST DAYS OF RABBIT HAYES. The base description of this book will have you thinking it is nothing more than a tragedy. But I’m here to tell you that’s wrong; this book is sweet, full of love, and so incredibly warm, everyone should read it. Mia “Rabbit” Hayes just turned forty and she loves her ordinary life with extraordinary people. She has a wonderful, colorful family and big plans for the world. But the world has other plans for her. After Rabbit receives a devastating diagnosis, she is determined to fight and live every second of her life. Together her friends and family rally around her and look to her for her never-ending strength and support.

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The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes
Anna McPartlin

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photo credit: iStock / Albina Gavrilovic

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