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Happy Family

3.47  ·  Rating details ·  934 ratings  ·  141 reviews
In Tracy Barone's mordantly funny debut, a fiercely independent woman is forced to come to terms with the family who raised her, the one who gave her away and the one she desperately wants.

Trenton, New Jersey, 1962: A pregnant girl staggers into a health clinic, gives birth, and flees. A foster family takes the baby in, and an unlikely couple, their lives unspooling from a
Hardcover, 393 pages
Published May 24th 2016 by Lee Boudreaux Books
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Average rating 3.47  · 
Rating details
 ·  934 ratings  ·  141 reviews

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Elyse  Walters
Juicy Storytelling....effortless reading....engrossing, intimate, and terrific!!!!!!

I started this book early this morning while riding a spin stationary bike. My bike shoes
were clipped into my SPD's. ( SPD's are designed for clipless bicycle pedals)....Its kinda an oxymoron.... POINT IS..... I was strapped in ( seat belt fastened..haha), taking a ride into this complex world that author, Tracy Barone created. Great workout!!!!

There are several themes - which tie together. At the beginning a ba
Larry H
Apr 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
Cheri Matzner's life is in a bit of turmoil. She and her filmmaker husband are barely speaking yet she's trying to have a baby, her job as a professor of comparative religions is in jeopardy (but all she really wants is a spot on a crew slated to head to Iraq to catalog and translate antiquities), and she's trying to keep her overbearing, functionally alcoholic mother from throwing her a 40th birthday party.

But Cheri is used to chaos in her life, as she has reinvented herself more times than she
Melissa Lee-Tammeus
Jun 14, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: borrowed
Ergh, I took a long time sloughing through this book. It started out as a very interesting take on a family who loses a child through miscarriage and the husband adopts a baby on the sly to save his wife from complete mental ruin. I'm hooked. But then we take a swerve to the baby all grown up and dealing with the aftermath as well as her own stuff. And honestly, she's not a very likeable character. And I don't even like not liking her. Then we swerve back to the original parents and add in a bun ...more
May 21, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: new
This book is not poorly written, and I did care about it enough to finish it. However, the problems I had with it were too big.

First of all, it starts out with this omnipresent narrative, not your typical third person that focuses on one character at a time. It reads like you are inside one person's head, then another person's who is in the next room or another floor of a house, and that's all within the same paragraph. It's very confusing.

We start out with a pregnant girl giving birth in a cl
Lolly K Dandeneau
Apr 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
"She was finally free from the irons of family obligation."

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No, she wasn't. We never are- there always chains in wait. A baby girl is born, her young mother is a beautiful mess and a high school boy is lost in an infatuation for that most interesting woman around, surely if he keeps her baby she will return for it and maybe into his arms as thanks? That is the lusty wishful thinking of Billy Beal who offers up his own family's nest to care f
Dec 04, 2016 rated it it was ok
’If life is a river, we can see only a small patch of it. A little in front of us, some behind. We don’t know when we’re going to run into a tributary or hit a waterfall. If you could pull back and up to see how it all connects to the ocean, if you could see the whole story of all of your parents and their parents, would it alter your memories of them?

If you could do that, even for a moment, you’d get God’s sense of humor. You’d know your story is perfect. That your terribly imperfect parents we
Jan 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I absoloutly loved this novel. I literally never wanted it to end. The way it is written transports you in, making you feel such empathy for the main protagonist, Cheri Matzner. This novel mirrors the complexity and beauty of life itself.

An amazing read, will have you wanting more with every page.
Rick Mordecon
Jan 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This amazing , engrossing book not only holds your attention with its riveting dialogue and incredible plot structure, but it makes your emotional temperature rise throughout. A deftly drawn, personal portrayal of family, lost love, and found self esteem and confidence. A page turner, quick to read, stylish, sensual and raw at the same time. I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it.
May 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
A young girl gives birth to a baby and walks out of the clinic. That baby is adopted by a couple unable to have a child of their own. Decades later, Cheri Matzner is all grown up but nothing in her life is going quite as well as she'd like.

Work, her marriage, and dealing with her well-meaning but overbearing mother are all sources of strife as she nears her 40th birthday. She's a former cop and current orofessor, and the details in this novel are so well researched and thoroughly described that
Jaclyn Crupi
Jul 13, 2016 rated it it was ok
2.5 Simply put, this book is not as good as its cover. Perhaps I'm just tired of reading about rich white families and their dysfunction and secrets but this book fell completely flat for me. The writing was serviceable without ever being great and the plot reveals were far too obvious. I also thought the readers' allegiances were confused. The start of the book made me emphasise strongly with the adoptive parents only to have perspective shift to the adopted daughter who is extremely 'unlikeabl ...more
Jan 25, 2017 rated it did not like it
Ugh ugh UGH.

I grabbed this one at the library because it had great cover art and some highly favorable book jacket blurbs from authors I really respect.

I despised the characters. They were miserable, rude, self involved, and negative. I slogged through and endured until the main character remarked that she was "autistic before she had her morning coffee" and then I just stopped reading. Seriously. With only a few chapters left.

May 04, 2016 rated it liked it
This book was only ok for me. Was tired of Cheri by about 2/3 of the way through and wanted to hear more about CiCi and Sol and would have loved to know more about Cheri's biological mom. ...more
Susan Becraft
Jun 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An extraordinary debut

Tracy Barone, a name I quickly added to my collection of favored writers, debuted with a splendid book. Having just mucked through two highly unsatisfactory books by seasoned writers, I was gobsmacked by the many skills of a rookie.

The story is driven by a collection of beautifully developed, believable characters, all of whom I came to love. Each one was so real that I occasionally found myself giving them unsolicited advice through the screen of my Kindle. Conjuring up a
Jul 16, 2016 rated it did not like it
Didn't like any of the characters. The author seemed to develop a storyline and then abandon it & start with someone else. No consistency.
Used "autistic" offensively to describe a character before he has coffee?!
Waste of my time. Don't waste yours.
May 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I devoured this book...I couldn't put it down! I don't like to spoil a good story so I won't. I will say that this multi-layered story took you through the ride of navigating one family's crazy. I cried, I laughed, and at the end you get a sense that every family, no matter how fucked up, works with their fucked upness.

I really like the fact that it gave you enough information but not too much where you felt the story dragged. It hinted at things and you just had to keep on reading because you
Jul 07, 2016 rated it did not like it
This book started off wonderfully with the past story of how the adoption came to be. . . But once it turned to present tense with the main character "Cheri" I lost 88% of my interest. I only picked it back up because I finished my other available books. The author can write well, but I found the entire plot as well as the details and dialogue all over the map. It's as if Barone wanted to tell 3 stories and fit it into one book. ...more
Tamar Halpern
Jan 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Brilliant, witty, deep and fierce. A could-not-put-it-down tale of one woman's search for family in the scorched earth that came before her, and in the remains of the fires she sets. Funny, bitter, all around delicious. ...more
Jul 16, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
So I've finally figured out why I didn't love Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo. Happy Family had what Evelyn's story did not. I don't think it was just the 3rd-person narration here worked better, but also that the aesthetic quality of the writing here seemed eons more developed. Barone's prose worked so well for this mini-epic, as the family members were introduced: Cece and Sal, the adoptive parents of Cheri, the infant to fill the hole made when they lost their biological son a few weeks prior d ...more
May 18, 2017 rated it liked it
Solid three stars. It was pretty predictable which was fine with me, but well written with a dark humor underlying it that gave a little edge. This is a classic messed up family story; no one communicates and the secrets have a tendency to eat everyone up.

The narrator changed a couple of times between mom and daughter but at least in my recollection it happened at natural breaks so it didn't bother me.

My biggest complaint with this book is it is lacking depth and heart. All the pieces are righ
Oct 01, 2019 rated it it was ok
There are no characters in this story that I can relate to or that I even like. Cici, the mother, maybe. I was intetested in the beginning story... wish that part continued instead of fast forwarding to the babys life as a 40 year old woman whos bitter towards everyone and everything. The story is very predictable.
Kelli Sellers
Apr 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is a moving story about families, how they begin and how they are defined. Really great story that comes full circle. But, I was hoping for a little more from the ending.
Feb 01, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: review-books, 2016
[3 stars]

At the center of this roving story lies Cherie, a baby born and abandoned by her teenaged mother, taken into a foster home due to the convincing of young Billy, and ultimately adopted by a distraught couple in hopes of filling a void left by the recent loss of their biological child. The timeline flexes and folds as the story is revealed from various perspectives, but mostly revolves around Cherie as its axis. Teenaged clinic custodian Billy, adoptive parents Sol and Cici, husband Mich
Bryce Van Vleet
Happy Family is full of anything but. Cheri Matzner is the middle-aged version of a child abandoned in an inner city health clinic. Her marriage is in shambles, and, to make matters worse, childless. Her relationship with her parents is, put nicely, complicated, and with little hope of repair as her father has recently passed. Those same parents were the ones who adopted baby Cheri, after suffering a hopeless tragedy that leaves one of them feeling ostracized from the family unit.

There's some
May 11, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: netgalley
Happy Family is a complex story about the myriad of ways adoption can touch lives. Written in a roving POV, it takes readers from the mind of the young addicted mother who gave up her daughter (Cheri) to the family who fostered Cheri, to the family who ultimately adopted her, and then jumps to Cheri's adult life, where she lives with her husband and is trying to have a baby.

I can't say that this is an uninteresting premise but I had a really hard time connecting with this book. The roving POV, i
Kathleen Gray
Dec 23, 2015 rated it really liked it
I'm torn about how to rate this well written novel. It felt like two or three different novels were going on - the tone of the beginning did not match the second third, which did not match the final third. There were just SO MANY things. I did not understand how Cheri got from religion major to cop to Yale to expert on and translator of Mesopatamia. We eventually learn why she left being a police officer but not the Mesopatamia part. The university section was not consistent, there was a whole n ...more
Zoe's Human
Happy Family is the coming-of-age story of a 40 year old woman who discovers herself as her world crashes and burns around her. The characters are all complex and, as a result of that complexity, quite real. It offers the pace and engagement of a light read, yet a message of compassion and understanding is delicately woven into its pages.

I think the biggest drawback for me with this book is my dislike of the main character. She's self-absorbed and ungrateful. It's a bit of a challenging to get i
Oct 28, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: industry-related
First things first, this novel is written in the third person present tense, which is perhaps my least favorite, so that may taint my review. This book was maddening. The author can turn a lovely, evocative phrase and I like how she generated empathy for a character who has many unlikable traits. The head-hopping and timeline hopping made the story a jumble, and when the last chapter is taken into consideration, there is a significant issue with the structural logic. I'm being vague to avoid spo ...more
Jun 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Maybe I was just in the mood for this book. Everything about it hit the spot and I liked the characters (not always the case and increasingly more so in fiction these days). Reading it made me nostalgic for my own parents and childhood and also knocked me in the head that I am a parent of teenagers now too and how did that happen when I still feel and even long to be the child again. Family is a wild and mysterious force that propels each and every one of us forward from day one to the end.

Jul 04, 2016 rated it it was ok
This book was just okay. The story is about the life of Cheri, a baby left unwanted and finally adopted. This is a story of her life, and who she becomes as an adult.

The story itself was fine, but I really disliked Cheri. There were plenty of supporting characters, but none of them were all that enjoyable or pleasant to read about either. I like characters with flaws, but I don't enjoy reading a book where I just don't like any of the characters.

This will be a forgettable read for me. I wouldn't
Adele Stratton
Jul 18, 2016 rated it did not like it
Shelves: did-not-finish
I gave up on this about halfway through, which is something I rarely do. I loved the beginning, but as soon as the story switched to the grown daughter, things started to fall apart for me. I lost interest big-time in the story and the characters.
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Book discussion with Tracy Barone 1 9 Jun 16, 2016 01:54PM  

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Tracy Barone earned her MFA in dramatic writing at NYU and has worked as a screenwriter and playwright. She has worked in Hollywood, where she was the Executive Producer on Wild, Wild, West, Rosewood, and My Fellow Americans, and was instrumental in the acquisition and development of numerous films, including Men in Black and Ali. In addition to an MFA, Barone holds a B.A. from NYU. http://www.tra

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