Today I have a review of Tiny Americans by Devin Murphy, available on March 12, 2019 from Harper Perennial. As a HUGE fan of Murphy’s debut, The Boat Runner, I was ecstatic to get my hands on his newest for review. Please read on for my thoughts.
Tiny Americans is my favorite kind of story. A quiet family saga, one where we follow these people over decades witnessing each of them come of age in their own way.
The story begins in 1978. The Thurber family lives in Western New York. Three children, one female, two males (Jamie, Lewis, and Connor), along with their parents, Catrin and Terrance. The parents’ marriage is dysfunctional, an all-too-often push-pull with a side of drinking.
There are moments of beauty where the father takes his children out into nature, listening to the heartbeat of trees, sleeping under the stars.
Eventually, Terrance leaves the family, though. As much as he tries, he can’t hold it together. The children’s resentment towards both parents grows over time. Years pass, and the children leave for their own respective futures, with plans to never look back on their broken apart family.
The children may not have looked back, but Terrance isn’t done with the family yet. He is sober now and full of apologies. Terrance doesn’t realize all the baggage and scars his adult children carry now.
Tiny Americans is a quiet portrait of a family that could be any family. It represents the ebb and flow of families, as they may come together for a purpose and slowly drift back apart.
Overall, I was absorbed in the story of the Thurbers. I wanted them to heal their rifts and forgive their pasts. Eventually I came to accept that this was their story, and the complexity that was their family’s life only added to the authenticity and even relatability. Devin Murphy, what story will you bring us next? I’ll be waiting!
I have to mention there are some scenes of harm to small animals, namely mice and a hamster.
I received a complimentary copy. All opinions are my own.
From the National Bestselling author of The Boat Runner comes a poignant, luminous novel that follows one family over decades and across the world—perfect for fans of the film Boyhood.
Western New York, 1978: Jamie, Lewis, and Connor Thurber watch their parents’ destructive dance of loving, hating, and drinking. Terrance Thurber spends this year teaching his children about the natural world: they listen to the heartbeat of trees, track animal footprints, sleep under the star-filled sky. Despite these lessons, he doesn’t show them how to survive without him. And when these seasons of trying and failing to quit booze and be a better man are over, Terrance is gone.
Alone with their artist mother, Catrin, the Thurber children are left to grapple with the anger they feel for the one parent who deserted them and a growing resentment for the one who didn’t. As Catrin withdraws into her own world, Jamie throws herself into painting while her brothers smash out their rage in brutal, no-holds-barred football games with neighborhood kids. Once they can leave—Jamie for college, Lewis for the navy, and Connor for work—they don’t look back.
But Terrance does. Crossing the country, sobering up, and starting over has left him with razor-sharp regret. Terrance doesn’t know that Jamie, now an academic, inhabits an ever-shrinking circle of loneliness; that Lewis, a merchant marine, fears life on dry land; that Connor struggles to connect with the son he sees teetering on an all-too-familiar edge. He only knows that he has one last try to build a bridge, through the years, to his family.
Composed of a series of touchstone moments, Tiny Americans is a thrilling and bittersweet rendering of a family that, much like the tides, continues to come together and drift apart.
Have you read Tiny Americans, or is it on your TBR? Did you read The Boat Runner? Happy Reading! ~ Jennifer THR