A Friend of the Family
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A Friend of the Family

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3.4 of 5 stars 3.40  ·  rating details  ·  3,015 ratings  ·  534 reviews
Pete Dizinoff has spent his whole life working toward an adulthood that would be, by all measures, judged successful. And in nearly every way, he's accomplished just that: A skilled and intuitive internist with a loyal following of patients, he's built a thriving medical practice in Round Hill, New Jersey. He has a loving and devoted wife, a network of close friends, a com...more
Hardcover, 302 pages
Published November 10th 2009 by Algonquin Books
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JoAnn/QuAppelle
I read a lot of press about this book but it was a major disappointment to me. I failed to see the "great writing" about which I had read.

The anticipation was not worth the result and the writing was overly dramatic. The plot development was SO SLOW. I hated the foreshadowing and the jumping back and forth in time. Sometimes I would get a couple of sentences into a paragraph and then realize she had shifted time YET AGAIN. Annoying.

There was way too much detail, but about what?.....something t...more
Malena Watrous
Just finished this novel last night--my first Kindle read. I had mixed feelings about the way that Grodstein built and sustained suspense about (at least) two different things that happened to (and as a result of) the narrator's misguided actions. On the one hand, I wanted to keep reading to find out what he had done wrong. On the other hand, I felt a bit manipulated by the amount of time it took to get the "prize" of these answers. Granted, this is part of the way that mysteries work. But the n...more
Sara Serna
I couldn't wait for this book to be over so I could move on to something else. I was continually lost in time, the story jumped around so much that I had trouble placing where we were supposed to be. A third of the way through the book I noticed that the characters still hadn't been developed enough for me to relate to them or want to learn more about them. It wasn't until somewhere in the last 100 pages that I finally had a curiosity about what was the become of the families involved.

The narrat...more
Greg
As I was reading this powerful and unbelievably good novel--the story of a successful suburban father, husband, and doctor whose life begins to unravel in a seriously gripping way--I recalled the way I felt as I read the best passages of Philip Roth’s American Pastoral. My heart actually beat a little faster, as if I were witnessing the almost hyperreal, perfectly-dialogued scenes being played out right in front of me. In 300 very quickly moving pages, Grodstein manages to capture not just a swe...more
Linda
Almost from the start I was drawn into this book in a very compelling way. I liked that the story is told from the perspective of a father as so often this genre of book is carried by a female voice. You also know straight away that the main character Pete has done something regretful and wrong, which adds just a hint of mystery to the book. As the story unfolds I was pulled full force in to the lives and struggles of this suburban NJ family. The central theme of the book dealt with parent child...more
Kathy
An absorbing look at a suburban internist and the disintegration of his entire world. While the book cut back and forth in time more than I would have liked, it was a riveting read. Dr. Pete Dizinoff recounts his tale in a way that makes him feel quite real. You can feel his frustration, his despair, his desire to just make his kid do what is best for him all jumping off the page. Some of the tragedy that derails his life is telegraphed, some is surprising, but it is all believable. We are all a...more
Jlaurenmc
I wanted to like Lauren Grodstein's A Friend of the Family. I really wanted to. But in the end, I was disappointed. The novel was named one of Amazon's Best Books of the Month in November 2009; critics gave it rave reviews. Usually, that means something. And I'll have to hand it to Grodstein -- she made me interested in her story and in her characters. I wanted to know: what did Dr. Pete Dizinoff do? And truly, that is the driving question behind the story.

In the novel's beginning, Grodstein wri...more
Nancy Martira
It's not "Freedom," but I'm prepared to call "A Friend of the Family," a great American novel. Resolutely of its time and place (the white whine chilling in the fridge; the Saab is making funny noises, the Jewish Community Center, the shared beach rental, the annual New Years Day Brunch), the book also captures moments in time from Yonkers to Pittsburgh in the last forty years.

The novel centers around two best friends: each doctors, each patriarchs who have chosen to raise their families in the...more
Elizabeth Scott
This book is not like anything I've ever read. I'm not sure how to explain it, but I'm going to try. On the surface, it seems like a standard, well-written thriller: father worried about his son falling in love with a friend of the family's daughter, who is ten years older and has a pretty checkered past, and what happens when he tries to protect his son.

But here's the thing: I kept thinking about the book when I was done with it because something in it seemed...just a little off. And so I re-re...more
Angela
I completely forgot that the author is a woman writing first-person in a man's point of view - an especially amazing feat as Grodstein was 31 and childless writing about a late-middle-aged man's relationship with his only son. It wasn't until after I'd finished the book and reflected on the story as a whole that all of the complexities of the narration unfolded, and I thought to question the narrator. I was wrapped up in Dr. Pete's emotions and memories as he dealt with life's more complex issue...more
Jessica
In the first few pages of A Friend of the Family a few interesting things are revealed about Dr. Pete Dizinoff. For starters, he's an upper middle aged man whose been cast out by his wife and son to live in the room above the garage. He's scared to pick up the phone to talk to his best friend. And then as if all that isn't bad enough, some crazy guy is accusing him of terrible things and throwing bottles at him at the waterfront.

Whoa, right? Heavy even. I found myself needing to find out what ki...more
Debbie "DJ" Wilson


I kept waiting for something to happen, nothing did. The story moved from different time periods and I would get lost in who was who. The only part of the book I enjoyed was the last 50 pages, in fact, that could have easily been the whole book. Boring, boring, boring!
CC
What a find. You look forward to certain books months before they're released and happily pay full price for them, only to be underwhelmed. Then you pluck a book off a library shelf for free and have the wind knocked out of you by its sheer... rightness.

A FRIEND OF THE FAMILY, by Lauren Grodstein, is this book.

The doting doctor Pete Dizinoff has navigated his life to cater to the success of his only child, Alec, a moody "artist" who, at twenty, has dropped out of his uber expensive university a...more
Heather
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Seth
Pete Dizinoff is the patriarch of said family. His son, Alec, is more or less a knucklehead, who despite his father's best efforts has no real ambition in life. Or at least, not the type of ambition that his father would prefer.

Pete meddles rather extensively in his son's life. At one point, frustrated by his son's procrastination, he writes an essay for a college application on Alec's behalf.

The reader might ask, "why not just let your kid make his own stupid mistakes?"

The trick is Alec is his...more
Diane
At the core of this novel, A Friend of the Family, is Dr. Pete Dizenoff, prominent Internist in Round Hill, New Jersey. Pete is a hardworking man, who is deeply in love with his wife of 25 years, and who only wants the best for Alec, his 20 year old only child. So why is this husband and father, living in the garage, by himself, at the start of this family drama? Pete's dreams of the perfect life is falling apart before his very eyes. His wife wants a divorce, his son hates him, a patient's brot...more
Alison
This book was scarily good, one where the author nails everything so precisely that it makes you uncomfortable. I'm familiar with communities like this one where many parents use their children's successes and failures to define themselves. The story arc is almost entirely dependent on Pete's increasing sense of desperation, and I felt like Lauren Grodstein stayed incredibly true to him--that is to say, when he finally loses it, it felt absolutely right, the train never left the track. I loved t...more
Elyse
I remember that book!

Gee........How could a person forget it?


Enjoy Kristen!


Nov. 2, 2013: I read "A Friend of the Family" years back -- (knowing I was in love with this author and wanting to read what she would write next).

"A Friend of the Family" is a book that is a MUST READ ---(one of those books which I feel ineffective to write in fear of never coming close to doing the book justice). ***SOMETHING*** about "A friend of the family" stays with you forever.
...... Its best to TRUST your friend...more
Carly Thompson
A Friend of the Family traces the disintegration of a wealthy New Jersey suburban family. The novel is narrated by Pete Dizinoff, a successful family doctor with a wife, a son, and close friends. Jumping back and forth in time, Pete describes the idyllic life he and his wife built with their beloved son Alec and the present day when Pete is estranged from his family and being sued for malpractice. Pete traces the problems in his life to the reappearance of Laura (the daughter of his best friends...more
Jennifer
Grodstein is a decent enough writer but the end result didn't prove tragic enough as the reader is anticipating something more tragic (not that the result of a doctor/patient relationship isn't) but we know it in the beginning. The dynamic between the protagonist doctor narrating his life in from various standpoints at times makes it a bit hard to know where you are in his life at the moment as you keep getting thrust back to his memories. I found myself reading faster to find out the final outc...more
Kelly Hager
It reminded me of Jane Hamilton's A Map of the World and also a little of Lionel Shriver's We Need to Talk About Kevin. (Not so much content, but more of the relentless sense of foreboding and wrong-ness that isn't really justified until the last few pages.)

This book jumps around a lot, but it's about Pete, his wife Elaine and their son Alec, and then their best friends, the Sterns. Joe and Iris have been best friends with Pete and Elaine since college. The Sterns' oldest daughter, Laura, is dat...more
Katie O'Rourke

As Lauren Grodstein's novel opens, the narrator is lost. Pete is living in the studio above his garage while his wife contemplates divorce and his estranged son appears to be finished with him. His medical practice has disowned him as a malpractice case looms. He's being harrassed by the family of a former patient and he's avoiding phone calls from his best friend.

It takes the majority of the book to get to the root of this mystery and the quantity of back story does seem tedious at times. But o...more
Jane
How do you rate a book where you think all of the characters are despicable?

How do you rate a book where you thought you might actually be physically ill while reading it but were compelled to continue because it was so well written?

How do you rate a book where you want to discuss it with everyone but don't want to suggest that anyone read it?

I went with 3 stars as an average between 2 stars for characters & story and 4 stars for writing & making me think.

I never would have picked this...more
Amy
This is one of those novels that snuck up on me and surprised me by how much I enjoyed it! I had no idea what the book was about until I began reading. This is a book that I want to be careful not to tell too much about in order to be sure that the future reader will experience the joy of watching this book unfold.

The novel itself is extremely well constructed. It's pacing is fantastic ... keeping you guessing while revealing just enough to keep you engaged and wanting more. The characters are w...more
Bookmarks Magazine
Critics were unanimous and unwavering in their praise for Grodstein's third work of fiction--"an unqualified success," according to the Boston Globe--lauding her compelling and believable characters, superb storytelling skills, and sharp ear for dialogue. Grodstein is a "perceptive and knowing critic of suburbia" (Washington Post). Her depictions of upwardly mobile suburbanites are as incisive as her descriptions of their relationships--particularly those between parents and children--are aching...more
Jason Pettus
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com]. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.)

All through the first half of reading Lauren Grodstein's latest novel, the out-and-out melodrama A Friend of the Family, I found myself disliking the book more and more, because of finding the main character so thoroughly despicable -- he's basically one of those small-minded, judgmental Tea Party doucheba...more
joanna
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Judith
In terms of the "would you rather...?", this book asks, would you rather have a daughter who, at the age of 17, gives birth in a public restroom and smashes her baby's skull. . . . . or would you rather have a son who is wildly infatuated with this girl when she turns 30 and returns home when he is a struggling 20 year old college drop-out? hmmmm. And does your answer change if you are best friends with the other child's parents?

This book is a page-turner which is so touching because it address...more
Susan P
Wow. Talk about dark and depressing... Book club read this the month after "Perfection: A Memoir of Betrayal and Renewal". I thought Perfection was disturbing, but this one was too. Pete Dizinoff has spent his life trying to raise his kid right. He and his wife wanted more children, but that didn't happen. As a result, Alec is somewhat spoiled. They've given him anything he ever wanted, and he's not very driven or motivated. He drops out of college and is living at home and painting while workin...more
Julie
The tension in _A Friend of the Family_ builds slowly slowly slowly over time. From the start, we know that something terrible has happened, but we don't know what it is. Over the course of the book we find out about other bad things that have happened to the characters (The Dizinofs and The Sterns) but we don't know what the biggie is until the very last chapter.

Upon reflection, the tension is really what makes this book. If I could, I think I'd rate it a 2.5, as I'm not sure exactly how I feel...more
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Lauren Grodstein is the author of the collection The Best of Animals and a novel, Reproduction is the Flaw of Love, which was both a Breakout Book selection from Amazon.com and a Borders Original Voices pick. Her work has been translated into German, Italian, and French. She teaches creative writing at Rutgers University."
More about Lauren Grodstein...
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