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Family of Origin

3.68  ·  Rating details ·  578 ratings  ·  105 reviews
When Nolan Grey receives news that his father, a once-prominent biologist, has drowned off Leap's Island, he calls on Elsa, his estranged, older half-sister, to help pick up the pieces. This, despite the fact that it was he and Elsa who broke the family in the first place. The Greys have been avoiding each other for a dozen years.

Elsa and Nolan travel to their father's fi
Hardcover, 287 pages
Published July 16th 2019 by Doubleday Books
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Average rating 3.68  · 
Rating details
 ·  578 ratings  ·  105 reviews

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Charlie Smith
Aug 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
How could you NOT love a novel in which you find this sentence:

The past is no reason not to have sandwiches.

Am I right?

Family of Origin, by CJ Hauser, is about love and its evolution and extinction, its adaptation to its environment and the challenges with which it is faced.

Elsa Grey, and her younger and estranged brother, Nolan, travel to Leap's Island, an isolated community of mostly disgraced or discredited scientists who are dedicating themsel
Tyler Goodson
Mar 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: arcs
Half-siblings Nolan and Elsa go to the Gulf-coast island where their father died, and where lives a group of scientists who believe evolution is going backward. And that's just the set-up. What follows is a perfectly, wondrously weird novel that never misses an emotional beat, one that handles its big ideas--and there are many: evolution, family, millennials--so intimately and organically. This novel will surprise you, move you, make you consider how different generations might live alongside ea ...more
Sep 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
C.J. Hauser practically takes you by the hand, offers you a comfortable seat and sits beside you to tell this story. Written with an intimacy and style that made me feel right at home. By the book’s end I felt as if I’d spent time with the characters rather than read words about them. Two half siblings travel, separately, to an island off Florida in an effort to grieve, discover what happened to their father, and to hopefully heal. I really enjoyed this book from start to finish. There are some ...more
DNF at 45%


apparently it's too much to ask for a nice brother-sister bonding story that doesnt involve incest
James Beggarly
Feb 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Marvelous book about an estranged brother and sister who travel together to an island of odd scientists who feel that they’ve discovered the reverse of evolution with a non-waterproof species of duck. The siblings are going to the island because after living there for the past two years, their father has been found to have drown. A really rich story of all the joy, anger, recrimination that one family holds in the open and in secret.
A funny and emotionally rich story of family, healing, and secrets. Compassionate. A good warm read.

Thank you to C.J. Hauser, Doubleday and Goodreads. I received this book in a Goodreads Giveaway and this is my honest review.
Lolly K Dandeneau
via my blog:
'Elsa and Nolan Grey might have been happier if they could be forgetful, or dead, but they were not. The Greys remembered everything.

They were fondlers of old grudges and conjurers of childhood Band-Aid smells. They were rescripters of ancient fights and relitigators of the past. The were scab-pickers and dead-horse-beaters and wallowers of the first order.'

Could it really be? Could evolution be going in reverse? A group of scientists, researchers and naturalists kno
Jessica Sullivan
“The Greys were scientific about their misery.”

This book checked all the boxes for me: weird family dynamics, intellectually stimulating subject matter, strange and thoughtful insights on everything from millennial culture to human evolution.

Following the death of their father, Ian, estranged siblings Elsa and Nolan reunite on a remote island in the Gulf Coast where Ian had spent his final years. Ian was part of a pop-science doomsday cult known as the Reversalists, whose
Aug 19, 2019 marked it as abandoned
dnf. writing is good but there are some things (laid out by other reviewers) that i do NOT like and am not invested enough to find out how it is fleshed out.
Jennifer (aka EM)
Oct 19, 2019 marked it as abandoned-for-now
not for me right now. One of the themes is too distressing; another too tedious.
Aug 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I loved this. It made me think and left me wanting more. There are so many stories contained within this book that could’ve been their own novel.
Sep 12, 2019 rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Rachel Watkins
Mar 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: arc, doubleday
What if everything wasn’t okay and the father that abandoned both his children wasn’t the cause, but just was? Half-siblings Nolan and Elsa feel forgotten by their father. Whether this was on purpose or by accident is not clear. What is clear is that he’s dead and they’re tired of not knowing and the key seems to be the remote island Reversalist compound where their father spent his last days. Hauser’s storytelling is brittle and beautiful. When your heart is broken, it’s hard to not blame the b ...more
Jul 29, 2019 rated it it was ok
I was looking forward to reading this because I'd enjoyed other work by the author, but I was disappointed. While the writing is solid and the concept of family is explored in depth here, I found the characters to be lacking depth and humanity. The supposed surprises and shocking events of the past are neither, and the characters' many irrational ideas and actions came across as silly and foolish. The in medias res structure of the book--where there are flashbacks going increasingly far back fro ...more
Aug 19, 2019 rated it it was ok
Family of Origin follows half siblings Nolan and Elsa (who have a VERY WEIRD sexual tension between them???!) after their father's unexpected death. Their father, Ian, is a "Reversalist," who lived on a secluded island with people who believe that evolution has started going backwards and we are all doomed. Also, Elsa wants to colonize Mars? And there is this ongoing theme of *we can't pinpoint when we became unhappy but we are deeply unhappy*, but really their lives are pretty normal and they l ...more
Aug 30, 2019 rated it liked it
So beautifully written but so, so strange. I’m not sure I’ve read anything like it and I’m not sure what to do with it.
Jul 04, 2019 rated it liked it
Thank you to Net galley for sending me a copy of this book. The story of estranged half siblings traveling to the research island where their father died. Overall an engaging read with a few minor problems. The good: traveling back and forth in time revealing history in phases works well here; also, the backstories of the scientists are especially interesting. The not as good: the 2 main characters are difficult to like or even sympathize with. The author’s main premise seems to be that life is ...more
Aug 08, 2019 added it
"I'm sorry you didn't find what you were looking for, Esther said.
"what were we looking for? Nolan asked. (p. 255)

Elsa and Nolan Grey, half-siblings and long estranged, try to reconnect with their shattered family following their failed academic father's death near his ocean retreat. (Not just his. A number of failed academics live at the island retreat of a rich man who seeks to prove that evolution is moving backwards. Their joint focus is on a strange, rare breed of duck fou
The writing in this is SO GOOD, and the relationship between Elsa and Nolan is SO WEIRD and makes me feel icky.

I liked the way Elsa and Nolan are referred to as "the children" throughout the whole book, really highlighting the way all (most? all.) Millennials still feel like children no matter how grown we become.

(view spoiler) ...more
Rachel | mrs.bennett.reads
Jul 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
“Because it meant that she could stop staring over her shoulder at everything that had come before, searching for the day that came before the pain. There was no place further back to go. To find any kind of happiness, Elsa would have to turn around.”

Okay. So, this book reminded me of Tell the Wolves I'm Home. Not that the plots are that similar ((view spoiler) ...more
Jaclyn Crupi
Sep 17, 2019 rated it liked it
I did not love this as much as I thought I would. It’s another attempt at a millenial novel but it fell well short of its conceit. I was initially repulsed by the (half) siblings having sex but I must say that Hauser handled this incredibly well ultimately and used it to very interesting effect. But still, gross.
4+ stars. Original and weird and beautifully written. It can be a little slow at times but that somehow fits with the Florida setting. This book is not for everyone and there's a development that almost put this into DNF for me...but I kept with it and this turn is handled so poignantly that it was almost shocking that she could pull it off. Well done.
Delany Holcomb
Apr 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
What does it actually mean to be family? Is it nature? Is it nurture? And what dynamics shape us as a family and define us as a unit? CJ Hauser's "Family of Origin" builds the story of the Grey family that no one but Nolan and Elsa want (and absolutely need) to talk about. Fierce, funny, and real, "Family of Origin" is a story of a family that grapples with what it means to progress through tragedy and forgiveness. This story speaks to the reader in the most honest and real way that a book of th ...more
Pickle Farmer
Jul 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
Really enjoyed this! Funny Anne Tyler-esque family novel. Loved the scientific and apocalyptic themes. Good airplane read.
Aug 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2019
I think, in the end, I liked this, but it is deeply weird and not for everybody.
Amy (TheSouthernGirlReads)
More to come....
Aug 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is a challenging read, not because of the writing, which flows beautifully (I found it to be much more fluid, and the characterizations and dialogue much more realized, than in the author’s previous book) but because of the subject matter. Still, I found myself rooting for, and empathizing with, all of the characters. I hope they all are okay in the end.
Sep 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019, fiction
This book touches so many subjects: family (that eternal heartbreaking part of our lives), science and geography, sports (baseball), death, time and travel. I read C.J. Hauser’s “The Crane Wife” essay from the Paris Review and listened to an interview with her on one of my favorite podcasts, From the Front Porch. I’m so glad to have read this book.
Jul 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
From the themes to the construction to the writing itself, I was enraptured by the world Hauser created.
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CJ HAUSER is the author of the novels The From-Aways (William Morrow 2014) and Family of Origin (Doubleday 2019).

Her fiction has appeared in Tin House, Narrative Magazine, TriQuarterly, Esquire, Third Coast, and The Kenyon Review, and she is a recipient of The Amanda Davis Highwire Fiction Award. She holds an MFA from Brooklyn College and a PhD from The Florida State University.