Have you ever read the blurb of a book and think, damn that sounds good? Well, that was me when the author of An American Family, Jackson Baer, emailed me concerning his new novel. The blurb is as follows and can also be accessed on Goodreads:
Isaac Childs has the perfect life – until that life comes crashing down when his wife Ramie vanishes.
Isaac learns that his wife’s disappearance is the ninth in a string of similar cases. In the wake of this news, he struggles to cope, to be a good father to his daughter and college-bound son, and to reclaim something of an ordinary life even as he coneals his troubled past.
After the FBI makes an arrest, and his wife is presumed dead, Isaac begins to move on. Yet will his secrets catch up with him? Has he conquered his vices for good? And what of the FBI’s theory that the case isn’t completely resolved, after all?
How I would describe this story is a complex nature of the human experience. The beauty of Jackson Baer’s writing, and by that I mean his character development, his world building and everything in between, is that he is unafraid to write what it means to be in reality. There is an incredible humanness to the characters, in that they are definitely not perfect and they have flaws like actual real people do. One of my pet peeves in fiction, and especially young adult fiction though current YA is moving away from this trend thank god, is writing characters who are literally two-dimensional robots. Those characters where you can’t emotionally connect with, who are written as though they are so absolutely perfect and their ‘problems’ are ridiculously non-issues? Well, An American Family is nothing like that, which just showcases the talent that Jackson Baer has in being able to craft such a real narrative with real-life characters.
In terms of the actual storyline, An American Family is very much driven by its characters. It explores the aftermath of Ramie’s (Isaac’s wife) disappearance on Isaac, his daughter and his son whereby, their layers are peeled one by one and you are confronted with raw characters who know of their shortcomings. Not only was the family dynamics compelling, but the actual FBI case was fantastically written. To be quite honest, that was the main aspect of the novel that intrigued me. The thriller and suspenseful nature of the case overall was written with such panache that I could not stop reading. I was on the edge of my seat.
Although, I must also admit that the only reason why I have rated this novel a 4 out of 5 stars is the result of two reasons. For one, I was reading An American Family whilst I was attempting to finish my second last assignment of the semester, so I was stressed and anxious which then resulted in me slightly losing interest in the novel about halfway through. This was rectified though – I just needed to breathe, have a cup of tea and read in the sunlight, it was wonderful. The second thing I noticed, however, was that at times the dialogue between the characters seemed forced and did not quite flow like a conversation. It was not an overwhelming issue though, and the actual writing of the narrative was incredibly articulate and the emotionality of the story was powerful.
An American Family is the first novel in Jackson Baer’s new two-part series of the same name, and is out now! I would recommend this as a read, especially if suspenseful thrillers with raw and incredibly real characters, this would be the book for you.
Until next time, bookish friends! Happy reading!
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NOTE: I received this book as an ARC for free, in exchange for an honest review. Deep thanks to Jackson Baer for this opportunity.
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