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Family Pictures

3.82  ·  Rating details ·  4,571 Ratings  ·  132 Reviews
Spanning forty years, Family Pictures follows the conflict between husband and wife, over a beautiful autistic child. Randall is both angel and demon. His father, David, a coolly rational psychiatrist, wants him placed in an institution; his mother, Lainey, insists on keeping him at home. Yet it is not just David and Lainey who are struggling to come to terms with a diffic ...more
Hardcover, First Edition
Published 1990 by Harper & Row
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Tutte le famiglie felici sono simili le une alle altre; ogni famiglia infelice è infelice a modo suo, diceva Tolstoj.

E, infatti, questo romanzo ci racconta il modo in cui sono infelici gli Eberhardt, una famiglia americana cattolica, che l’autrice ci fa conoscere e seguire a partire dagli anni ’50 sino a giungere agli anni ’90. Un padre, una madre e sei figli, di cui uno autistico.

Oggettivamente, non posso lamentarmi di nulla: il libro è ben scritto, i fatti sono articolati, i personaggi sono
Apr 11, 2015 rated it it was ok
This should have been a better book than it was. The story is centered on a family with an autistic son, and how the presence of this son shapes the family and each of its members. Unfortunately, all the family members are pretty unlikable and it is very hard to care about what happens to them. The mother and father are particularly unpleasant - very self-absorbed while believing they are selflessly dedicated to their kids. All of the characters seem to float in their own little bubbles of self- ...more
Aug 25, 2011 rated it liked it
I like Sue Miller, but this is not her best work. She is a fabulous writer, and that really shines through in some sections of the book. The shifting narration does not always work (though when it does, it's quite good). I was left feeling that the character motivations were missing here - so I never knew why anyone did the things they did, and therefore never really connected with them in any meaningful way. (Although, the last chapter goes a teeny way toward ameliorating this - but it's too li ...more
Jul 24, 2011 rated it really liked it
Absorbing story of a semi-dysfunctional but loving family set in the 60's- and 70's. Several points of view bring different facets of this story to light. Sue Miller's style is a bit more flowery and metaphor-filled than I prefer, but her gift of narrative shines.
Katie Kenig
Apr 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
But that's the way it is in a family, isn't it? The stories get passed around, polished, embellished. Liddie's version or Mack's version changes as it becomes my version. And when I tell them, it's not just that the events are different but that they all mean something different too. Something I want them to mean. Or need them to. And of course, there's also the factor of time. Of how your perspective, your way of telling the story - of seeing it - changes as time passes. As you change.

In the id
Heather Stevens
Jun 15, 2017 rated it liked it
The story was good, but sometimes disjointed. I had to look back at the chapters occasionally to help remember where in the timeline we were.
May 25, 2012 rated it really liked it
I loved The Good Mother and especially While I Was Gone, both by Sue Miller. I did not love this one as much and I have been trying to understand why.

The story is about a family more than about an individual. Yes, there is a main character - Nina - but her life is surrounded by the lives of her parents and siblings, and several chapters are from these other points of view. For a while I wondered if we'd ever get back to Nina, because I missed her.

The controlling force in the story is Nina's old
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Apr 17, 2012 rated it really liked it
Technically a 4.5-star rating. So touching and beautifully written, with a searingly insightful understanding of the family dynamic, the pain and beauty at its core that shapes who are. It was so dead-on with its portrayal of the impact fraught family relationships have on all of us. I'm withholding the last half star only because I wasn't quite fully satisfied with the ending, and didn't understand how/why it would be Nina's chosen ending.

Miller writes like a better, kinder version of Jonathan
Aug 17, 2011 rated it really liked it
This book is gripping - spellbinding in parts, in fact. There were times I absolutely could not put it down. Miller has a way of bringing people and situations to life in such a way that even if you've never experienced what she's writing about, you can find something in it to relate to. She makes things real, and she's a very honest writer. As someone who has a disability, I can say in all honesty that Miller did her research. She truly understands how some families can be impacted by such an e ...more
Nov 13, 2011 rated it liked it
This is the first of Sue Miller's books that I've read. It was a good book but it fell short of a full five stars for me.

It was a very real picture of a family broken by mental illness. I applaud Miller for her extremely believable portrait of the Eberhardt family which being torn apart by a child with autism. The family struggles through accusations from other each other, failing marriages, disruptive children, war, and so on. Based on how Miller describes these events in the lives of the Eberh
I didn't love this book, but I did like it. It was honest....but kind of depressing.

It is about a family: a loving husband and wife and their 6 children. Child #3 (Randall) was born with a mental illness, in which they would refer to him as being autistic...however I felt like it was much more than that. I could be wrong, just my opinion. It tells of their struggles from the time they found out that Randall has this illness, through the next 40 years. There were some good times, but not too many
Members of a family suffer difficulties, familial conflicts, hurts and doubts. Challenged by a sibling born with mental handicaps, the parents opt to keep Randall home until his outbursts become unmanageable. Finally he is institutionalized. A marriage breaks, comes together again and then finally breaks for good. Children grow up, each immersed in their own version of hurt and heartbreak over their childhood and find their way into adulthood limping badly at first but then finally standing up s ...more
Heather Muzik
Mar 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Sometimes I can be slow to digest a book, slow to come to terms with my feelings about it. In this case, when I finished Miller's book back in 2012, I unequivocally gave it four stars—there was no question that I was drawn in by her story and intrigued by the family dynamic she portrayed. I didn't care for several of the characters, although I appreciated their characterizations, for they were true and bold and agonizingly real to me. But it is only after all these months have passed and so many ...more
Oct 09, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
This book focuses on a family with six children, the third of whom is autistic. I was surprised and irritated at first at how descriptions of day to day life with Randall, the autistic child, seemed to focus much more on the other characters, so that you could almost forget that Randall was there. But then I thought, maybe that's the point - that even with this horrible difficult disease in the middle of the family, life goes on. Coffee (lots of it!) is drunk, games are played, marriages fall ap ...more
Jan 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who likes contemporary fiction
Recommended to Mary by: Library Book Sale
Whatever the world could throw at the Eberhardt family, circumstances could not have broken their strength or spirit. In 1948, the Eberhardts were the picture perfect family - Lainey is the wonderful, if slightly eccentric mother, David is a good father - sometimes sarcastic, always cool-tempered. Two wonderful and loving children - Lydia and Macklin - complete the family portrait.

The lives of the Eberhardt family couldn't possibly get any better; until the birth of their third child, Randall.
Ben Eggleston
Oct 06, 2013 rated it really liked it
This is the author’s third book. Her first, the Good Mother, was a novel; her second, Inventing the Abbots and Other Stories, was a collection of short stories. Although this book is a novel, I found that it more resembled her collection of stories, in that most of the chapters of this book are largely independent of each other – almost separate snapshots, as suggested by the title (though the title no doubt also refers to the fact that the primary point-of-view character is a photographer). The ...more
Nov 14, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gave-up-on
I’ve read 150 pages and just haven’t connected at all with any one of the six children in this family (or their mother or father); certainly not enough to want to spend another almost 300 pages with them.

So far its been day-to-day, not too exciting kind of stuff. The woman keeps getting pregnant, her 3rd child is autistic, so she has another (and another and another) to, what, make up for it? One child slices his foot open on Christmas, and we are at the hospital with him and his father. His wi
Jan 01, 2012 rated it liked it
Another family story -- a strong and confident family in 1948 of mother (slightly eccentric), father (sarcastic, always cool-tempered), a boy, a girl. Then the third child is born, severely disabled. The family spends the next 40 years trying to survive upheaval, heartbreak, pain. Summary: "Everyone around here's under a lot of strain right now. No one has a lot of resilience. The edges are frayed." This was painful to read. I kept thinking that there had to be a better way to deal with the diff ...more
Sep 17, 2012 rated it really liked it
I really liked this book, and I have liked all of the Sue Miller books that I have read For as long as it is, Ifinished it pretty quickly. The word dysfunctional keeps coming up in the reviews and summaries of this book, so I thought it would be more dark or depressing than it was...maybe I'm dysfunctional, but this family seemed pretty loving and honest to me...complicated? Yes. Faced with adversity? Yes. But aren't all of us? I really felt each character and could totally empathize with both D ...more
Mar 31, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: popular-fiction
Just recently reread this book. It is both a joyful account of making it through all the odds and a sad story of a family that has too much to deal with. A young couple gets married. They have two children. Then the third comes along. He has issues. This was during the 1960's, so of course the mother was blamed for his problems. To prove to herself and her husband that she was not at fault, she gets pregnant. Not once, not twice, but three times. The book describes the family's life together and ...more
Aug 03, 2013 rated it really liked it
As a fan of many Sue Miller's books, I was happy to find one I hadn't read. The topic is an interesting a family struggles to survive while living with a severely autistic child. Parents Lainey and David seem to have an idyllic life, living in a new home with their two wonderful children. Their lives are changed forever when the next child is born. The story moves through the next forty years -- and three more children -- as the family revolves around the needs of the handicapped child ...more
JoAnne Pulcino
Apr 16, 2014 rated it it was ok

Sue Miller

The dysfunctional Eberhardt family dynamic is torn asunder when their third child is born autistic. In the mother's denial she feels if she has another child it will erase some of her guilt and deceives the father about the pregnancy. This only creates greater upheaveal and strife especially in the marriage. Each member of the family is impacted differently dealing with the boy and his handicap.

Ms. Miller is an excellent writer and has a marvelous ear for the thoughts a
Jan 05, 2015 rated it liked it
The at the center of this troubling novel is a middle class, educated family of eight. The third child is born severely autistic. As he grows more unmanageable we see the affects of this in the parent's marriage and in the emotional development of the other five children.
There are high points, but very few. There are break-through & enlightenment, but very minimal. There IS a great deal of angst and heartbreak and upheaval. It just proved too disturbing and haunting for me, though I read it
May 11, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a very involved book and not always in a good way. It's dense and detailed and psychological, in an analytical sense. While the story of the Eberhardt family is interesting, a lot of the telling began to seem mundane and boring after Miller had gone over the same thoughts and feelings for the umpteenth time using a different set of thoughts and overly-descriptive emotions. I enjoyed the insight into feminism of the 50s, 60s and 70s and the pressure and blame placed on women over circumst ...more
Feb 05, 2008 rated it really liked it
I'm left breathless by Sue Miller's ability to tell a story from many different viewpoints - female, male, very young, very old - reflecting attitudes of five different decades. This covers the timelines of several members of one family whose scars radiate out over many years from the autism of one brother. I don't think this is a spoiler, but the final pages detail an idyllic evening just before the birth of the autistic child. We see the family, still small, as yet unwounded, ready to welcome ...more
Jul 23, 2010 rated it did not like it
The last 200 pages were boring. It did not progress in a logical way, nor did it have much meaning toward the end. There were certainly a lot of interesting parts, especially about the autistic child and the impact on their marriage. The characters were well developed and believable, but her writing style can be exhausting. She packs too much into each sentence where it became a mental exercise every time I read the book. I felt like I had to continue reading, even when I wanted to stop, so that ...more
Sep 10, 2012 rated it really liked it
As a critique of the medical profession, specifically psychiatry, in the 1950s and 1960s, the book recalls the The Yellow Wallpaper. A family's happiness is upended after the birth of an autistic son. Of course, the parents' reactions aggravate what's already a difficult challenge. The psychiatrist father finds blame with the mother. She in turn strives to have more children, more than they can handle, to prove him wrong. The children and the autistic son's caregivers reinforce the parents' many ...more
Sue Gutteridge
May 09, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This is the only book for in years that I have finished and immediately started to re-read (something I always did as a child) - so I have both just read it and am currently reading it. A subtle,ambiguous, painful account of the life of a family from the shifting perspectives of different members and different ages. The only other book of her's I've read 'The Good Mother' also very good in a silmilar way
Jun 09, 2015 rated it really liked it
This book sat on the shelf for years. I thought it would be a tough read. I actually liked the way the story was brought to life like looking at 'Family Pictures' and trying to bring them relevance in the present.
Everyone's memories are skewed by their own composition through the view finder. I don't think it was so much about the autistic child as it was about the impact he had on every member of the family.
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Goodreads Librari...: Please add correct cover and page count 5 21 May 24, 2017 06:58AM  
500 Great Books B...: Family Pictures - Sue Miller 1 6 Jul 15, 2014 01:14PM  
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name. See this thread for more information.

Sue Miller is an American novelist and short story writer who has authored a number of best-selling novels. Her duties as a single mother left her with little time to write for many years, and as a result she did not publish her first novel until 1986, after spending almost
More about Sue Miller...