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Lindsey's Literary Leanings

Book Reviews - Contemporary Fiction / Biographies / Autobiographies

  • Lindsey Skelton-Smith

The Family Web (Author: Itzel Cummings)

The Family Web (Book Cover)

Easy-To Read, Engaging, Intriguing

Genre: Contemporary Fiction/Domestic Abuse/Family

The Family Webb By Itzel Cummings, Author

Ever since first meeting Debbie, Clara has never felt her to be perfect mother-in-law material. Even when she had insisted on helping Clara move from her shared accommodation with her best friend, to 'Theo's house - as Debbie like to constantly make abundantly clear, she did everything she could to make her future daughter-in-law feel insignificant & in the wrong. As for wanting more time with Theo, didn't she realise that this was a big day for the two of them? Theo had always felt torn between the two women, and unable to completely stand up to his mother, leaving Clara feeling hurt. The way Debbie acted during their earlier years & even the later ones after marriage & kids, pales into insignificance, when Clara learns just how devious Theo's mother can be & what she is really capable of, threatening her place within the family & her future, when an unexpected tragedy occurs.

After reading several novels that were of a combined genre, I felt the need for a more grounding read & chose this family drama, with realism running through its core, chancing upon it on another Author's page. I guessed what the genre was, from the title, and it was just what I had been looking for. It is of course, an age old witticism that mother- in-laws are difficult. However, Debbie is on another level.

The three leading protaganists put me in mind of the three main characters in the 2005 film 'Monster In Law' and I had that narrative in my head throughout the book. Although, from the way they are described, there are differences. From the start it is apparent that there is something suspicious about Debbie's actions but it does seem that she maybe is simply the archetypal interfering busybody that you might expect. The weakness of Theo, Clara's husband, when it comes to his mother, quickly gets annoying & I really wanted him to properly defend his wife & come round to what was happening. The way that Clara keeps making excuses for Debbie's behaviour to keep the peace between her & Theo, is a little frustrating considering how long it has been going on for.

When she finally blows up at Debbie after discovering her betrayal, her anger is tangible, as the reader, I felt it too. The fact that then, it all comes to a head just as tragedy strikes leaving Clara even more vulnerable to Debbie's poisonous and vengeful attitude left me feeling devastated for Clara & furious at Debbie that even after the worst has happened, she still can't bring herself to be civil. Theo's sisters, Penelope (through whom I learnt the meaning of a 'Switzerland vibe') and Juniper, were to my mind equally challenging, although Penelope did seem to be a little more open to the idea of her mother's abilities to cause trouble, seemingly through her own strained relationship with her.

The twist in the story involving Juniper was unexpected and turned a somewhat common tail into a darker one which was interesting. Concerned as to how Clara would cope, I was glad that her mother was at her side, despite her own challenges & being the poorer side of the wealth divide to Theo's mother. However, as we learn later, and as I had suspicions, Clara's family's class & heritage appear to be a problem for her in-law. A fact that she makes clear to John, her husband, but conceals from others. Debbie's strategy of feeding individuals in her life, different parts of the narrative between her & Clara is a very manipulative tool to use to control the version of her that they see and believe. This, particularly was very cleverly orchestrated by the author as it is a very complicated, yet effective way to influence people's thinking.

'The Family Web' will take you on a roller coaster of emotions. It was very hard to put down and I could easily get lost in it for hours at a time. However the only issues that I found hard to believe was how a couple can be apart/divorced for 6 years without their nearest and dearest realising, especially when they all live within close proximity to each other. The other is that, for me, it was never really explained why Debbie felt the need to pretend to be an a abused wife, but then she didn't give reasons for anything she did.

I am aware that there is a sequel novella due out shortly which I very much look forward to reading & wonder how much closure it will provide to the many issues that this family in turmoil is experiencing.

A thoroughly entertaining read, with a believable storyline & characters whose dialogue was so free-flowing and natural, it made it a joy to read. I love Itzel's style of writing and shall be monitoring her future projects.....oh, and to clarify, pineapple doesn't belong on a pizza!

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