Strangers and Cousins: A Novel

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ONE OF THE WASHINGTON POST'S TEN BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR

One of Christian Science Monitor's BEST FICTION OF 2019


"Funny and tender but also provocative and wise. . . One of the most hopeful and insightful novels I've read in years." - Ron Charles, The Washington Post

"Serious yet joyous comedy, reminiscent of the Pultizer-winning Less" - Out Magazine

A novel about what happens when an already sprawling family hosts an even larger and more chaotic wedding: an entertaining story about family, culture, memory, and community.

In the seemingly idyllic town of Rundle Junction, Bennie and Walter are preparing to host the wedding of their eldest daughter Clem. A marriage ceremony at their beloved, rambling home should be the happiest of occasions, but Walter and Bennie have a secret. A new community has moved to Rundle Junction, threatening the social order and forcing Bennie and Walter to confront uncomfortable truths about the lengths they would go to to maintain harmony.

Meanwhile, Aunt Glad, the oldest member of the family, arrives for the wedding plagued by long-buried memories of a scarring event that occurred when she was a girl in Rundle Junction. As she uncovers details about her role in this event, the family begins to realize that Clem's wedding may not be exactly what it seemed. Clever, passionate, artistic Clem has her own agenda. What she doesn't know is that by the end, everyone will have roles to play in this richly imagined ceremony of familial connection-a brood of quirky relatives, effervescent college friends, ghosts emerging from the past, a determined little mouse, and even the very group of new neighbors whose presence has shaken Rundle Junction to its core.

With Strangers and Cousins, Leah Hager Cohen delivers a story of pageantry and performance, hopefulness and growth, and introduces a winsome, unforgettable cast of characters whose lives are forever changed by events that unfold and reverberate across generations.
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About the author

Leah Hager Cohen is the author of five works of nonfiction, including Train Go Sorry, and five novels, including The Grief of Others, which was longlisted for the Orange Prize and the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and was a finalist for the Dayton Literary Peace Prize. She is the Barrett Professor of Creative Writing at the College of the Holy Cross.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Penguin
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Published on
May 14, 2019
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Pages
320
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ISBN
9780698409644
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Language
English
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Genres
Fiction / Family Life / General
Fiction / Literary
Fiction / Women
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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New York Times bestselling author Nan Rossiter transports readers to Cape Cod with a warm, compelling story of family, new beginnings, and finding the courage to love honestly and well. . .

The old Cape Cod house that Laney Coleman shares with her minister husband Noah and their five boys is usually brimming with cheerful chaos. There's nothing fancy about the ancient kitchen or the wooden floors scuffed by the constant parade of activity and the clicking claws of their two Labrador retrievers. It's a place to savor the sea breeze wafting through the windows, or sip coffee on the porch before another hectic day begins. This summer, life promises to be even busier than usual, because Noah's younger brother, Micah, wants to hold his upcoming wedding on their property.

Though thrilled that Micah has found happiness after past heartache, Laney is apprehensive about having her home turned upside down. She has other concerns too—her youngest son is being bullied at school, and Noah's father is not the robust patriarch he once was, in mind or body. As the bride and groom's large, close-knit families gather, there will be joyful celebration but also unexpected sorrows and revelations, and a chance to store up a lifetime of memories during the fleeting, precious days of summer. . .

Praise for the novels of Nan Rossiter



"A gripping story of three sisters, of love lost and found and a family's journey from grief to triumph. A sure winner." —Debbie Macomber, #1 New York Times bestselling author on More Than You Know

"Eloquent and surprising. . .I love this story of faith, love, and the lasting bonds of family." —Ann Leary, author of The Good House on The Gin & Chowder Club
A rehearsal dinner brings together two disparate families in this sparkling, witty novel

“This vital novel offers delicious echoes of Virginia Woolf and E. M. Forster, and a touch of A Midsummer Night’s Dream—but its magic is unique. The Garden Party is beautiful and full of life.”—Claire Messud, author of The Burning Girl and The Woman Upstairs

The Cohens are wildly impractical intellectuals—academics, activists, and artists. The Barlows are Wall Street Journal–reading lawyers steeped in trusts and copyrights, golf and tennis. The two families are reserved with and wary of each other, but tonight, the evening before the wedding that is supposed to unite them in marriage, they will attempt to set aside their differences over dinner in the garden.
          
As Celia Cohen, the eminent literary critic, sets the table, her husband, Pindar, would much rather be translating ancient recipes for his Babylonian cookbook than hosting this rehearsal dinner. Meanwhile, their son, Adam, the poet (and nervous groom), wonders if there is still time to simply elope. One of Adam’s sisters, Naomi, a passionate but fragile social activist, refuses to leave her room, while Sara, scorpion biologist turned folklore writer, sits up on the roof mourning an imminent breakup. And Pindar’s elderly mother, Leah, witnesses everything, weaving old memories into the present.

The lawyers are early: patriarch Stephen Barlow and his bespangled wife, Philippa, who specializes in estates, along with Philippa’s father, Nathan, hobbled by age and Lyme disease. Then come the Barlow sons William (war crimes), Cameron (intellectual property), and Barnes (the prosecutor), each with desperate wife and precocious offspring. How could their younger siblings—Eliza, the bride, an aspiring veterinarian, and her twin brother, Harry, recently expelled from divinity school—have issued from such a family?

Up and down the dinner table, with its twenty-four (or is it twenty-five?) guests, unions are forming and dissolving while Pindar is trying to figure out whether time is really shaped like baklava, and off in the surrounding forest with its ancient pond different sorts of mischief will lead to a complicated series of fiascoes and miracles before the party is over. Set over the course of a single day and night, Grace Dane Mazur’s brilliantly observed novel weaves an irresistible portrayal of miscommunication, secrets, and the power of love.

“Lyrical and charming, this comedy of errors is a delightful summer read.”—People
Another bawdy, poetic, crazy quilt of a book..."-The New York Times Book Review

Amy Joy Lawler, the last of Mattagash, Maine's founding clan, just announced her engagement to Jean Claude Cloutier-an outsider! Now the typically tranquil backcountry town is buzzing with the news and everyone is gleefully anticipating the social event of the year.

As the guests roll in, Amy Joy's scandalized mother takes to bed in protest, the no-good Giffords plot to steal the wedding gifts and hubcaps, and motel owner Albert Pinkham devises new schemes to fill his cash register.

Meanwhile, on hearing the news, Amy Joy's aunt downstate plots to return to Mattagash for good against her husband's wishes, while her son carries on an affair with an Elizabeth Taylor look-alike behind the back of his Valium-addicted wife.
When this volatile assortment gathers in church on the big day, hilarious and wacky results ensue.

At once funny, insightful, and heartbreaking, A Wedding on the Banks is a perfect for fans of Olive Kitteridge (Elizabeth Strout), The Language of Flowers (Vanessa Diffenbaugh), and The Good House (Ann Leary) who will fall in love with Mattagash and its people.

More from Mattagash, Maine:
The Funeral Makers (Book 1): Mattagash, Maine: a quiet town rocked by scandal, seduction, mayhem, blackmail, and the only recorded case of beriberi on the entire North American continent!
Wedding on the Banks (Book 2)
The Weight of Winter (Book 3): Surviving the winter will be hard; dealing with each other is another story.
The One-Way Bridge (Book 4): Return to Mattagash-the anything but tranquil town where a mysterious dead body has just been found in the woods.

What readers are saying about A Wedding on the Banks

"a riot, so very funny and also sad."

"This book combines humor and true heartbreak in ways that few authors are capable of."

What reviewers are saying about A Wedding on the Banks

"When these folks get together, the resulting mix of zany comedy, pathos, and sense of place makes worthwhile reading."-Library Journal

"As downright knee-slapping, laugh-out-loud a novel as I've read."-Washington Post Book Review

"A hilarious, high-spirited, it's-great-to-be-alive hoot of a novel."-Newsday

"A generous and genuine entertainment."-New Yorker

What people are saying about Cathie Pelletier

"Cathie Pelletier generates the sort of excitement that only writers at the very top of their form can provide."-Stephen King

"Nobody walks the knife-edge of hilarity and heartbreak more confidently than Cathie Pelletier."— Richard Russo, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Empire Falls

"It is Pelletier's gift to be able to coax the drama from stony ground without artifice or sentimentality."-Boston Globe
"An ambitious, fearless novelist."-The Washington Post

"Cathie does a wonderful job of capturing [her characters'] moods and loves and losses, and yearnings...Her writing is lovely and so descriptive"— Annie Philbrick, Bank Square Books, Mystic, CT

"Sharp stuff...Her sentences are powerful and unique as snowflakes."-New York Times

A “remarkable and insightful” look inside a New York City school for the deaf, blending memoir and history (The New York Times Book Review).
 
Leah Hager Cohen is part of the hearing world, but grew up among the deaf community. Her Russian-born grandfather had been deaf—a fact hidden by his parents as they took him through Ellis Island—and her father served as superintendent at the Lexington School for the Deaf in Queens. Young Leah was in the minority, surrounded by deaf culture, and sometimes felt like she was missing the boat—or in the American Sign Language term, “train go sorry.”
 
Here, the award-winning writer looks back on this experience and also explores a pivotal moment in deaf history, when scientific advances and cultural attitudes began to shift and collide—in a unique mix of journalistic reporting and personal memoir that is “a must-read” (Chicago Sun-Times).
 
“The history of the Lexington School for the Deaf, the oldest school of its kind in the nation, comes alive with Cohen’s vivid descriptions of its students and administrators. The author, who grew up at the school, follows the real-life events of Sofia, a Russian immigrant, and James, a member of a poor family in the Bronx, as well as members of her own family both past and present who are intimately associated with the school. Cohen takes special pride in representing the views of the deaf community—which are sometimes strongly divided—in such issues as American Sign Language (ASL) vs. oralism, hearing aids vs. cochlear implants, and mainstreaming vs. special education. The author’s lively narrative includes numerous conversations translated from ASL . . . a one-of-a-kind book.” —Library Journal
 
“Throughout the book, Cohen focuses on two students whose Russian and African American roots exemplify the school’s increasingly diverse population . . . beautifully written.” —Booklist 
The subtly powerful novel adapted into the 2015 feature film, The Grief of Others asks: is keeping a secret from a spouse always an act of infidelity? And what cost does such a secret exact on a family?

From the acclaimed author of No Book but the World and 2019's searing new novel Strangers and Cousins.

The Ryries have suffered a loss: the death of a baby just fifty-seven hours after his birth. Without words to express their grief, the parents, John and Ricky, try to return to their previous lives. Struggling to regain a semblance of normalcy for themselves and for their two older children, they find themselves pretending not only that little has changed, but that their marriage, their family, have always been intact. Yet in the aftermath of the baby's death, long-suppressed uncertainties about their relationship come roiling to the surface. A dreadful secret emerges with reverberations that reach far into their past and threaten their future.

The couple's children, ten-year-old Biscuit and thirteen-year-old Paul, responding to the unnamed tensions around them, begin to act out in exquisitely- perhaps courageously-idiosyncratic ways. But as the four family members scatter into private, isolating grief, an unexpected visitor arrives, and they all find themselves growing more alert to the sadness and burdens of others-to the grief that is part of every human life but that also carries within it the power to draw us together.

Moving, psychologically acute, and gorgeously written, The Grief of Others asks how we balance personal autonomy with the intimacy of relationships, how we balance private decisions with the obligations of belonging to a family, and how we take measure of our own sorrows in a world rife with suffering. This novel shows how one family, by finally allowing itself to experience the shared quality of grief, is able to rekindle tenderness and hope.

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