Reunion by Hannah Pittard: Living Up to “the Next This is Where I Leave You” Label

How many times have you seen a book marketed as “the next [insert previous massive bestseller]”? And, how many times have your high expectations then come crashing back to earth?

I remember seeing this a lot with Gone Girl. Lots of psychological thrillers, particularly those involving marriage, were billed as “the next Gone Girl“. A quick Google search for “the next Gone Girl” produced 34,700,000 results! Barnes & Noble has a list of 12 Books for People Who Liked Gone Girl. I think you get the point…

Often, I feel like the label of “the next [insert amazing book]” ends up creating overly high expectations and subsequent disappointment with the book. The Bloggers Do It Better community on Google+ hosted a discussion about this very topic this summer…and the comments were a mix of “I hate hearing that label” and “depends on the book”. This brings to mind The Silent Wife by A.S.A. Harrison, which did not live up to its “the next Gone Girl” label for me. However…

Today, I want to celebrate a book that bucked the trend…

FictionReunion, Hannah Pittard, fiction
Released October, 2014
288 Pages
Bottom Line: Read it.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: eGalley provided by the publisher via NetGalley

Plot Summary

As Kate faces turmoil in her own life, she is summoned to Altanta to join her somewhat estranged, extended (I don’t mean cousins and aunts…I mean ex-wives and half siblings!) family for her father’s (Stan) funeral.

My Thoughts

As soon as I saw the blurb for Hannah Pittard’s Reunion, I thought it could potentially be the next This is Where I Leave You (which I loved!). At the risk of jumping out on a limb that could very easily snap (see discussion above), I actually mentioned this a few times on the blog and social media before reading the book. To Reunion‘s marketing team’s credit, they did NOT bill it as “the next This is Where I Leave You” in the official materials. Thankfully, Reunion did feel very similar to This is Where I Leave You, but was absolutely its own book with its own style. It’s no copycat. I loved it just as much as I loved This is Where I Leave You and it is one of my favorite books of this year.

Reunion is a hilarious and irreverent take on marriage, stepmothers (four, in this case), half siblings (seven, in this case), strained parental relationships, the bond with siblings you grew up with, and the occasional ridiculousness of the rituals of death. I loved the combination of Pittard’s informal, straight forward writing style with the depth of the issues she covers.

On an open casket:
He’s figuring out when Stan will be ready for us to see – dressed, poised, restructured in the noggin. It seems as if everybody is at least on the same page that if we’re going to do this open casket thing, we should preview the body and make sure it’s decent enough for the children. Make sure whatever is going to show up in that box doesn’t cause serious scarring.

On stepmothers and half siblings:
Is this my family? Are these women who came in such quick succession but who divorced me as easily as they divorced my father – are they my family? And these children, this rainbow of ages and heights and features – are they my family because half their DNA says they’d make good donors if and when the time comes? If this is what family is, then count me out.

On strained parental relationships:
But now we’re here […] gearing up to mourn this man, this relative stranger, this hoarder and baby maker and consummate ass, and I’m the only one who sees how shallow it all is. I’m the only one who objects to the performance of it all.

Some books just verbalize particular situations in such a perfect way that they make me think “yes, that’s exactly how it is” (this phrase was originally used by Maggie Shipstead to describe this quality in Adelle Waldman’s The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P.)….and Reunion is one of those books. There were multiple sections where I found myself nodding my head and thinking she got it exactly right.  

On her father’s latest wife:
She gives me this small, sad smile, and I think, in another life, I wouldn’t have hated her necessarily. In another life, if I’d run into her at a coffee shop or a party, I might not even have minded talking to her for a few minutes.

Reunion was more than just a fun book for me (though, it definitely was fun!). It dealt with serious issues that touched a personal chord. But, Pittard handled them in a delightful way that made for the perfect combination of levity and depth.

Reunion is going on my upcoming Best Books of 2014 (click here for last year’s list), 2015 Summer Reading (click here for last year’s list), and Great Books Under 300 Pages lists.

You May Also Like

Seating Arrangements by Maggie Shipstead
This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper

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  1. Sarah, this sounds really good. On the list it goes.

    Posted 10.15.14 Reply
  2. Wow, this does sound like a great read! I had the exact same reaction as you when I heard about –this sounds like This Is Where I Leave You! While I loved that book, I wasn’t sure that I wanted to read another version of the same kind of story. Maybe now I’ll give it a try.

    (And I had the SAME experience with The Silent Wife! That really kind of made me feel burned about the whole “this is the next X” thing from a publisher’s promotional materials)

    Posted 10.16.14 Reply
  3. I gotta say, hearing that a book ” is the next….” actually turns me off from reading it. I usually end up disappointed with it. Thanks for sharing about Reunion. I will have to add it to my TBR!

    Posted 10.16.14 Reply
  4. Sarah, I was really looking forward to your review on this one; I’m so glad to hear that you were not disappointed! This sounds great, and I love the selections you shared; I will definitely have to find some time for this one. Thanks so much for a great review!

    Posted 10.16.14 Reply
  5. I still haven’t read This is Where I Leave You, but I did really enjoy Reunion. I have a tough time with books being compared as “the next…”, too, but I’m glad this one still worked out!

    Posted 10.16.14 Reply
  6. I requested this on netgalley because I thought it sounded really good, but I wasn’t approved 🙁 That won’t stop me from picking up a copy, especially now that I’ve read your review!

    Posted 10.16.14 Reply
  7. This goes on my list right away! I listened to an audio sample yesterday and loved the narration… may even go that route. This is Where I Leave You was a favorite of mine, too.

    Posted 10.16.14 Reply
  8. It’s really great when you find a new book you can absolutely love. That rare occurrence is worth slogging through the rest, isn’t it? This is definitely not one of my favorite genres, but it sounds good.

    Posted 10.17.14 Reply
  9. Beth wrote:

    Came to your post from your comment on my review of “The Good Girl.” I agree with your assessment about labelling! It’s a poor marketing tactic. I too loved “This is Where I Leave You”! I’m definitely going to have to check out “Reunion”!

    Posted 10.20.14 Reply

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