14 Stunning Novels That Explore Family Dynamics

If you like books full of emotional depth and interesting character interactions, stories about families are the way to go. They're full of complex relationships that will draw you in and keep you invested from start to finish. So if you're looking for a great new read, check out the fourteen stunning novels listed here. This video was made with Ezvid Wikimaker.

14 Stunning Novels That Explore Family Dynamics

Title Author
1. The Family Tabor Cherise Wolas
2. Where Reasons End Yiyun Li
3. The Girl Made of Clay Nicole Meier
4. The Ones We Choose Julie Clark
5. Beyond the Pale C. Michelle McCarty
6. The Cactus Sarah Haywood
7. The Crying Tree Naseem Rakha
8. The Book of Essie Meghan MacLean Weir
9. Before the Wind Jim Lynch
10. Number One Chinese Restaurant Lillian Li
11. Good Neighbors Joanne Serling
12. Bitter in the Mouth Monique Truong
13. Ordinary People Diana Evans
14. Brass Xhenet Aliu

Fun Family Activities

8 Great Films About Family

  1. A Quiet Place (2018)
  2. The Godfather (1972)
  3. Little Miss Sunshine (2006)
  4. Juno (2007)
  5. Little Women (1994)
  6. Boyhood (2014)
  7. Sisters (2015)
  8. Big Fish (2003)

The Future of Family

In Depth

Tolstoy wrote that "all happy families are alike, but each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." No matter what kind of family structure you come from, there's no denying that our relationships with the people who raised us can be complex and frustrating. These relationships can also form the subject of moving, painful, and transcendent writings that show us exactly what it is to be human. For readers who seek out complicated, heartfelt stories about family ties, here, in no particular order, are some of the best books to get your hands on.

In the #1 slot is "The Family Tabor" by Cherise Wolas. The Tabors are a distinguished bunch. Father Harry is about to receive a prestigious honor in Palm Springs, where his family will join him in celebration. But things are not quite what they seem within the Tabor ranks. Though Harry's wife Roma is a brilliant child psychologist and their children are accomplished luminaries in their respective fields, something's missing. There's a secret Harry's been holding back ever since the kids were little, and this just might be the weekend it comes to light.

At #2, we have Yiyun Li's "Where Reasons End." How does one begin to get past the death of a child? In this searing novel, set in the months after the narrator loses her son Nikolai to suicide, an imaginary conversation between mother and son begins. Based on author Li's own experience, this short, powerful read is essential for anyone who's ever had to come to terms with a personal loss.

Based on author Li's own experience, this short, powerful read is essential for anyone who's ever had to come to terms with a personal loss.

For #3, we find "The Girl Made of Clay" by Nicole Meier. Sara barely knew her father growing up. As a famous sculptor, her dad was merely an abstract presence in her life, until he showed up in old age, left injured and unable to care for himself after a fire. Sara's marriage is already on the rocks, and her father is one tough pill to swallow on his best days. But if her young son can find a way to bond with the grandfather he barely knows, maybe she can find it in her heart to give her errant dad a second chance.

At #4 is Julie Clark's "The Ones We Choose." When geneticist Paige got pregnant eight years ago, she didn't spend too much time thinking about the day her son Miles would come to her to ask about his paternity. With Miles trying to adapt to a new school and a new town, he's full of questions about where he came from that she's not prepared to answer. Paige knows she can't hide the truth forever, but is she ready to open up to her young son about the most vulnerable aspects of her past?

In the #5 spot is "Beyond the Pale" by C. Michelle McCarty. Losing your father in a tragic car crash and hating your mother doesn't make for a promising adolescence. Abbie is pregnant, and now being told by her mom that she needs to leave home forever. She finds a new community in a trailer park, but no matter how far away she gets from her troubled childhood, she's still got questions. For instance, what's in that old locker that her father kept and her mother tried to hide from her? Abbie's about to find out, whether or not she's ready to handle the truth.

She finds a new community in a trailer park, but no matter how far away she gets from her troubled childhood, she's still got questions.

At #6 is Sarah Haywood's "The Cactus." Susan Green thinks relationships are overrated. She's brisk, no-nonsense, and simply doesn't have time for social niceties. But when Susan's mother dies, she finds herself falling apart in all the ways she feared most, and now she'll have to deal with her troubled brother. With so much drama spiraling around, it might be time for the prickly, independent Susan to finally break her own rules and ask for help.

Coming in at #7 is "The Crying Tree" by Naseem Rakha. Nate Stanley thought moving to Oregon would provide a welcome change, but after the father of two takes a new job and moves his family west, his fifteen-year-old son is killed during an attempted robbery. As the family struggles to cope with the tragedy, Nate's wife Irene falls deeper into despair, and secretly corresponds with her son's jailed killer. As his execution date nears, the Stanleys must make difficult moral choices that may split them apart forever.

For #8, we have Meghan MacLean Weir's "The Book of Essie." Growing up famous isn't much fun for Essie, the youngest child in a famous evangelical family. Essie has always felt like her life wasn't her own. Now, as a teen, she's pregnant and unable to figure out a way to get the life she wants and keep her family's reputation intact. It's up to the TV crew of her show, "Six for Hicks," a reporter, and Essie's own courage to break her out of her cookie-cutter life and give her the freedom she's always yearned for.

Essie has always felt like her life wasn't her own.

At #9 is Jim Lynch's "Before the Wind." Sailing has always been a part of Joshua's family. Dating back years, the Johannssen clan has been composed of an eclectic group of scientists, builders, and sailors who are just trying to get closer to the sea. They're also always at each others' throats. Joshua can't understand why his family fell apart, but he's hoping to find out. With the whole estranged clan reuniting for a precipitous boat race, it will be only a matter of time before the Johannssens learn whether they'll sink or swim as a family.

At #10 is "Number One Chinese Restaurant" by Lillian Li. Maryland's Beijing Duck House is run by the Han family, a tight-knit group that doesn't always see eye to eye. Jimmy Han wants to elevate their cuisine, while his brother, Johnny, wants things to stay exactly as they are. With tremendous changes coming for the Duck House, the brothers will have to decide how to respect their father's legacy without burying their own hopes and dreams for the Han family forever.

For #11, we get Joanne Serling's "Good Neighbors." In a small suburb, four couples make a habit of meeting up each week to get the local gossip, commiserate, and make plans for their kids. But when the Edwards family takes in a four-year-old Russian orphan, the neighbors suddenly have a lot more to talk about, and not all of it's good. Are the Edwards fit parents for the young girl, or is she simply too troubled for them to help? As the drama ramps up, the gossip gets juicier, until the quiet community suddenly finds itself on the brink of social destruction.

Are the Edwards fit parents for the young girl, or is she simply too troubled for them to help?

At #12 is "Bitter in the Mouth" by Monique Truong. Linda isn't like anyone else in her family. She's the keeper of a dark secret that even she isn't aware of. Now, in her thirties, she's still struggling to figure out what it was that tore her family apart years ago. When tragedy strikes, Linda is faced with the chance to solve the mystery behind the cryptic message her grandmother gave her years ago, but doesn't know if she's ready for it.

For #13, we find "Ordinary People" by Diana Evans. In South London, on the brink of the 2008 election, two couples are coming to terms with some harsh truths about themselves. New mother Melissa isn't sure that she's cut out for the task of parenting, while her distant husband isn't sure he can commit to their newly-formed family. Their counterparts Stephanie and Damian are trying their best to cope with loss and raise their three children. If the couples can start being honest with each other, maybe they'll finally be able to find a way to a better life.

Finally, at #14, is, Xhenet Aliu's "Brass." Elsie is sick of her waitressing job. She dreams of a better life, but never seems to be able to break free of all the things that are holding her back. Then, she meets Bashkim, an Albanian immigrant who left his wife for the promise of a new life in America. The two fall in love and Elsie gets pregnant, news that destroys all her plans of escape. Years later, Her daughter is trying to find herself as a high school graduate. But when she presses her mother for the story, she has no idea what kind of truth awaits her.