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Strangers and Cousins: A Novel (Paperback)
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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.
"Cheerful and lively, Cohen’s new novel — set at an anarchic family gathering in rural New York — packs a lot of themes into its satisfyingly simple frame. As in a Shakespearean comedy, disparate relationships are resolved and familial love prevails."—New York Times Book Review, Editor’s Choice
"Cohen’s characters are familiar in their failings and lovable in their tender quirks. Her writing style and tone lend a lightweight grace to at-times heavy subject matter… Cohen’s gentle philosophizing reminds us that while the past may not even be past, and the future often feels dangerously obscure, the present—bountifully populated by both strangers and cousins—offers its own rewards, if we choose to embrace them."—Bookpage
"Cohen perfectly captures the chaos of a big family event, with all the personalities and baggage that come with the territory, adeptly mixing humor and sentiment to create an intoxicatingly rich story that bursts off the page with life." —Booklist
"[A] serious yet joyous comedy, reminiscent of the Pulitzer-winning Less, as it tackles issues of racism, anti-semitism, zoning, and pollution with a satirical edge. Cohen’s demonstration of a modern family, and the hopes it may have, are a triumph and well worth your read." –Out.com
"An absolute delight. . . A perfect summer novel: funny and tender but also provocative and wise. . .Cohen’s ability to acknowledge the agony of that strife in the context of a modern, loving family makes this one of the most hopeful and insightful novels I’ve read in years." –Ron Charles, The Washington Post
"In even the simplest wedding there is a hint of pageant, a truth that is at once celebrated and subverted in Leah Hager Cohen’s luminous new novel. Strangers and Cousins has the old-fashioned feel of a sprawling multi-generational tale even as it is animated by very contemporary ideas about love, marriage and family. A beautiful novel by one of our most gifted and insightful writers." –Ann Packer, New York Times bestselling author of The Dive from Clausen’s Pier and The Children’s Crusade