Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “What the Family Needed” as Want to Read:
What the Family Needed
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

What the Family Needed

3.36 of 5 stars 3.36  ·  rating details  ·  763 ratings  ·  149 reviews
In this incandescent novel, a family’s superpowers bestow not instant salvation but the miracle of accepting who they are.

“Okay, tell me which you want,” Alek asks his cousin at the outset of What the Family Needed. “To be able to fly or to be invisible.” And soon Giordana, a teenager suffering the bitter fallout of her parents’ divorce, finds that she can, at will, becom
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published March 21st 2013 by Riverhead Hardcover (first published November 1st 2011)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about What the Family Needed, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about What the Family Needed

Life After Life by Kate AtkinsonThe Burgess Boys by Elizabeth StroutReconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreightThe Interestings by Meg WolitzerThe Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Entertainment Weekly's A Rated Books
7th out of 14 books — 12 voters
The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil GaimanThe Golem and the Jinni by Helene WeckerLife After Life by Kate AtkinsonA Tale for the Time Being by Ruth OzekiThe Man Who Watched The World End by Chris Dietzel
Interesting Books of 2013
171st out of 314 books — 917 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,535)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Larry Hoffer
I don't know about you, but when I was growing up (and sometimes even now as an adult), I dreamed of having superpowers. The desire for those powers—of flight, invisibility, super-speed, x-ray vision, etc.—changed based on the situation I was in at the time, but I felt fairly certain that my life, or at least that moment, would improve significantly if I possessed those skills.

When Steven Amsterdam's What the Family Needed begins, 15-year-old Giordana and her older brother, Ben, are the pawns in
Members of a family develop special abilities as they grow older and experience the mundane traumas of life. This is the central conceit of “What the Family Needed” an interesting, though flawed, collection by Steven Amsterdam.[return][return]Made up of an uneven set of short stories, “What the Family Needed” attempts to incorporate superpowers into a literary exploration of family dynamics and personal difficulties. In this way, it is similar to “Fortress of Solitude” by Jonathon Lethem. Howeve ...more
Amy S. Foster
As a person who writes books about "normal" people acquiring supernatural abilities, I was intrigued to see Amstterdam's take. I was really disappointed in this book. I think he's probably a great writer, but not a great story teller. An entire family's history is told over thirty years. Each member has their own chapter which moves the time along, but also acts as kind of a contained short story (I used a similar device in my first novel- so I'm not against the idea.) However, the characters ge ...more
Maria  (Scratchbook)
Non fatevi trarre in inganno dal titolo: non è un libro superficiale.
Ammetto che inizialmente ci sono cascata anch'io: il termine superpoteri ha spalancato il baule della mia infanzia tirando fuori una serie di immagini legate a paladini della giustizia, calzamaglie fluorescenti, mutazioni genetiche e raggi gamma a profusione.
No. Non non è così.
Ritratto di famiglia con superpoteri è innanzitutto la storia di una famiglia normale, con tutti i problemi normali che un mondo, normale, possa generare
Dhanaraj Rajan
Apr 06, 2013 Dhanaraj Rajan rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Australian Fiction, Family Relationships.
Picked it up by chance. But had a wonderful time reading it. It is about two family. There are totally seven members. And the 7 chapters in the book are dedicated to each member of the family. Each member is with a supernatural power (eg: able to be invisible, able to fly, ability to be a cupid, etc.). But then through the narration of each one's character the story evolves and you begin loving the story more and more as it progresses. In simple words, to me, it is a book on human relationships ...more
Tanya Eby
I just finished narrating this. Now, no one has specifically told me that I shouldn't post reviews on books I narrate, but I generally don't, just because it's not my job to judge. My job is to give characters voices to the best of the ability. That said, I LOVED THIS BOOK.

I say that loudly.

There's a quiet gentleness to this piece that is deceivingly simple. The story is, actually, quite complex. It's told through stories that interconnect, through one family's experiences. And that's probably
Wendy Bousfield
Mar 26, 2015 Wendy Bousfield rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Murray, Peter, Michele
Recommended to Wendy by: Carol
Shelves: magic-realism

Amsterdam’s second novel is an exceptionally moving work of magic realism. The destinies of two families are intertwined over three generations. Fleeing from her alcoholic husband, Ruth finds refuge at the home of her nurturing sister, Natalie. With her are her teenaged son and daughter, Giordana and Ben. Natalie and Peter have two sons, Sasha and his endearingly goofy younger brother, Alek. The plot proceeds with startlingly (intentionally disconcerting) leaps in time. Over the next three decad
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Wade McGinnis
I was surprised that I liked this book enough to give it 5 stars after reading some of the ratings on goodreads and amazon... but, being a stickler for super-powered stories, I knew I wanted to read it anyway. This is an endearing story of one family who grow into their own unique abilities that compliment their struggles. There are no bad guys to battle, no comic-book action sequences, but simply a story of using one's gifts to interact and cope with their lives at the point they needed the mos ...more
Leo ~ Sangue d'inchiostro
Erano tutti separati, sparpagliati come pianeti, senza che nessuno chiedesse all'altro se andava bene così.

Sfido qualsiasi lettore a guardare la copertina di questo romanzo, a leggerne il titolo e a non pensare di avere tra le mani la versione romanzata del celebre lungometraggio Pixar Gli Incredibili. In realtà basta leggere la quarta di copertina per rendersi conto che così non è, ma evitate di farlo perché la casa editrice non si fa remore nel palesare alcuni elementi del romanzo che, teori
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
An interesting take on 'super powers' without turning the characters into heroes. The book follows an extended family through many years as each acquires a special ability that helps them through their life. The book is divided into individual stories of family members as they age and acquire their powers. The one main aspect of the stories is Alek who seems to have been able to give his family members their unique gifts. I would have given more stars, but I found the book to be a bit confusing, ...more
they had me at the "incredibles" reference - anything with normal people getting superpowers is awesome, in my mind. i liked the use of the passage of time (really interesting, considering my last book was kate atkinson's life after life, where time is a huge variable too). it was hard for me to suspend disbelief that multiple people wouldn't be 1) completely freaking out upon this discovery and 2) not tell anyone else about it...once you get over that, the story is really engaging, especially w ...more
I know it is wrong to compare books, but I cannot help it: I read this in close proximity to reading Things We Didn't See Coming and I much preferred Things. But then, I do have a soft spot for post-apocalyptic survival stories.

This was certainly very good, and Steven Amsterdam writes people and relationships very well. The voices did all seem fairly similar but the ideas were very intriguing.

Of course, reading novels about people have supernatural powers make me wonder what mine would be. What
What the Family Needed is one of those books that will stay with me. It's not so much a novel as a collection of interlocked stories spanning decades, each depicting a family member who learns s/he has a supernatural power--e.g., invisibility, flight, mind reading, etc. The last story/chapter links them all together. Part of me wishes Amsterdam would've blended it all together and kept the reader informed as to how each family member grew up and matured and lived with this power. Part of me like ...more
Should be 4.5 stars, and only because I need to hang on to half a star for Mr Amsterdam's next book, which will doubtless be even better. I think he's great. I also think my reasons for thinking so are entirely irrational and thoroughly tied up with what I like. So if you like what I like, you'll like this, and a lot.
I'm reserving judgement until such time as I read this book again. I blame my book selection process which is based on very little information so as to preserve the elements of discovery and surprise. A book about family…YAY! Telling me what the family needs…we all want to know this right? In any case, I was not prepared for the world in which I found these characters with ordinary names…Ruth, Natalie, Ben, etc. living on the face of it pretty ordinary lives…sibling rivalry, divorce, etc. doing ...more
Daphne Beelen
There were a few things I liked a lot about this book but also a lot of things I found lacking. The way it was written in multiple stories from different points of view over 30 years was nicely done and made the book interesting. I enjoyed reading about all the different powers and how the characters used them in their day to day life.

However, I wish the consequences of those powers had been touched on more. After the chapter in which the power surfaced, they're never really mentioned again. (o
Melbourne author Steven Amsterdam came to international attention in 2009 with the publication of his first book, Things We Didn’t See Coming which won The Age Book of the Year and was longlisted for the Guardian First Book Award. This second novel, What the Family Needed shows no signs of Second Book Syndrome: his style is inventive and playful. That playfulness, and the sense that there might be liberating alternate realities reminds me of John Banville’s The Infinities (see my review), and ha ...more
This was such an entertaining read.
7 chatterers for 7 members of a family, each chapter being told by a different family member.
In each chapter that family member discovers they have some kind of superpower. I absolutely loved how they handled it, just shrugging their shoulders and accepting that what is, is. Gave everything a much more real feeling about it.

As the book goes on so does time. We see the family going their separate ways for their separate lives. As happens.
Yet the stories slowly
What the Family Needed

I needed it in hardcover before I got to page five.

Before we even meet the family, it has cracked, and part of it is moving away to a sister’s house in paradisiac suburbia. Instantly, we realize this book’s universe did not begin on page one; it reaches far before it. We don’t even see Ruth pile her children into her blue hatchback, and leave her husband looking down (or not looking at all) at them as they take off. By they time they arrive at Natalie’s peaceful home, we’v
Tom O’Connell
What the Family Needed is the exhilarating second novel by New Yorker-cum-Melbourner, Steven Amsterdam. This had been on my to-read list for a while. It never left my radar because its speculative fiction premise – an ordinary family with superpowers – had me intrigued. What the Family Needed has received a few superficial comparisons to The Incredibles, and while I wouldn’t say that’s entirely off the mark, I do think it’s a somewhat dismissive assessment, one that ultimately sells Amsterdam’s ...more
Scott Fabel
This is a story about a family that is much like any other family. The story spans the lives of numerous family members as they learn to cope with life. What makes this family different from others is that each of the members of the family develops a super power--just when he or she seems to need it most. The powers really do seem to reflect just what the family needed.

The book's chapters are each focused on one member of the family. While the focus is on that particular family member, each chap
Beezlebug (Rob)
No Ordinary Family

Summary:If it hadn’t been for a review in Entertainment Weekly magazine I probably would have never discovered this book as its not one that would have popped up on my radar. When I saw the premise of the family gaining powers I thought it sounded like it might be an interesting read and follow along the lines of the TV shows ‘No Ordinary Family’ and ‘Heroes’.

The background of the story you can get from the Goodreads summary as I think that summarizes it nicely. Family members
This was another lucky First Reads win. I was sold on the concept after reading the book's description. Weirdly enough, the British television show Misfits came to mind. From the book page...

But instead of crimes to fight and villains to vanquish, they confront inner demons, and their extraordinary abilities prove not to be magic weapons so much as expressions of their fears and longings as they struggle to come to terms with who they are and what fate deals them.

Expectations were high. I love t
Every now and again a story comes along that really resonates while you are reading it, then seems to linger around the corners of your mind well after you have closed the final page. This second offering from Steven Amsterdam did just that for me and I enjoyed and embraced the experience.
What the Family Needed is not a book that it easy to describe and to really go on the journey, you need to take a leap of faith and just go with the literary devices that the author has employed to tell his del
Each chapter in the book follows a different member of an extended family, each person possessing a different type of paranormal ability or thinking that they are possessing it. While reading this book, I was reminded of how, years ago, "Life of Pi" similarly stretched my ability to believe the story was actually the reality or a metaphor, and then it concluded that the same situation can be presented in many ways and the most likable story is not necessarily the closest to the truth. The parano ...more
Le koala Lit
Deux familles liées par deux sœurs.
Sept petits chapitres qui dépeignent la vie de ces deux familles.

Giordana ouvre le bal avec ses souvenirs de jeunesse ; le jour où elle a découvert qu’elle pouvait devenir invisible. Puis Natalie, Ben, Ruth, Sasha, Peter et Alek dévoilent petit à petit leur histoire et leur pouvoir magique. Chacun à sa façon et à travers son passé va raconter l’histoire de cette famille de la plus tendre enfance (Alek avait 7 ans) jusqu’à la mort de l’un d’entre eux. Il faut at
Karen Germain
Steven Amsterdam's novel, What the Family Needed plays with the idea of having a superpower get you through a tough time in your life. Each chapter in Amsterdam's novel focuses on a different family member and the time in which they received their super power.

The powers are not something that the characters receive with surprise. It's more like it's something necessary to help them. It's this lack of surprise that helped with the plausibility and allowed me to just go along for the ride. It wou
Chihoe Ho
"What The Family Needed" is a tricky one to review. It probably deserves half a star more, but I'm fine with what I've rated it. This was read immediately after Andrew Kaufman's "Born Weird," which I greatly adored, so by having a similar theme involving a dysfunctional family with supernatural powers, there was no escaping the comparison between the two.

In the end, this lost out in the comparison. I had to put it on the back-burner to read others but at the same time, I felt I had to come back
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 84 85 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • The Miniature Wife and Other Stories
  • Blood
  • The Legacy
  • Like a House on Fire
  • The Humanity Project
  • Floundering
  • The Parallel Apartments
  • The Andalucian Friend
  • The Family Law
  • Foal's Bread
  • Cold Light
  • Middle Men: Stories
  • Five Bells
  • Traveling Sprinkler
  • The Women In Black
  • Unpolished Gem
  • The Mansion of Happiness: A History of Life and Death
  • The Measures Between Us
Is a writer living in Melbourne. He was born and raised by lifelong New Yorkers in Manhattan.

He wrote his first story about a hamster whose family was starving. A lilac bush in bloom saved everyone.

Steven Amsterdam has edited travel guides, designed book jackets, is a psychiatric nurse. Is a palliative care nurse.

More about Steven Amsterdam...
Things We Didn't See Coming Things We Didnt See Coming Familiemagie The Best Australian Stories: A Ten-Year Collection Willow Pattern

Share This Book