With wit and an unerring eye for detail, acclaimed author Ian Frazier takes readers on a journey through his family's story, his nation's history, and himself
Using letters and other family documents, Frazier reconstructs two hundred years of middle-class life, visiting small towns his ancestors lived in, reading books they read, and discovering the larger forces of history that affected them. He observes some of them during the British raid on Danbury, Connecticut, in the Revolutionary War; he follows others west as they pioneer in the wilderness of Ohio and Indiana; he visits the battlefields where they fought the Civil War. Frazier interviews old-timers, uncles, aunts, cousins, maids, and a beer-store owner who knew his dad. He pursues the family saga in aspect from trivial to grand, hoping for "a meaning that would defeat death."
Family is a poetic epic of facts, a chronicle of Protestant culture's rise and fall, a memorial, and a revised view of American history as romantic as it is cold-eyed.
“Mr. Frazier, in this remarkable history of an unremarkable family, plays both roles, the gossip and the pedant, balances skillfully, then adds his own insights as a loyal family member.” ―David Willis McCullough, The New York Times Book Review
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I've been thinking about this, and I've decided this is my favorite book, at least my favorite that I have read in the past 5 or 10 years. It's pretty hard to say why, but let me give it a shot: the way his writing conveys his affection for his near family and his ancestors without losing his sense of humour about them. (Ian Frazier started out as a humor writer.) His beautiful descriptions of the countryside he travels through, country you might otherwise think was much worth looking at. His wonderful details about his family history make you feel like everyone's family is important. Since I first read this book, I have developed a true genealogy fixation, trying to recapture the feeling Frazier invokes in this wonderful book. I wish he would write more.
Many of the books I love, such as Carolyn See's "Making a Literary Life" and Barbara Grizzuti Harrison's "Italian Days," are as much about their authors as their stated subjects. Ian Frazier's "Family" also is highly personal, yet remarkable in how Frazier presents his memoirs of growing up in Ohio, adds a meticulously researched history of his ancestors, and conflates it all into a profoundly moving meditation on a country, a society and the human condition. "Family" is a book that you'll read from cover to cover without being able to put it down, then pick up often to dip into, savoring favorite parts and the rich, supple excellence of Frazier's prose. Always poignant but never sentimental, "Family" takes us through two hundred years of the lives of various Fraziers, Wickhams, Hurshes, Bachmans and Chapmans--the genealogy that culminated in David and Kate Frazier of Hudson, Ohio, their son Ian, and his four brothers and sisters. Frazier leads us off into far-ranging but fascinating...
Ian Frazier's Family is not a book that one reads at a sitting, but it is rather something to be savored over a long read. I have put nearly six months into reading it so far and am not the least bit bothered at my pace. While the book is ostensibly about Mr. Frazier's family, it is safer to say that it is really about the nature of family, particularly the American family. It is also a fascinating history of the country as seen through the lives of this family. Mr. Frazier has spent much time in gathering simply every piece of information that he can possible find about his family. There are more names in this book than one can hope to ever handle. But the tone, the flavor, and the rhythm of this piece make it an irresistable read.
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