Thursday, July 21, 2022

Any Other Family by Eleanor Brown

Any Other Family by Eleanor Brown
368 pages
Published July 2022 by Penguin Publishing Group
Source: my copy courtesy of the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review

Publisher's Summary:
Though they look like any other family, they aren’t one—not quite. They are three sets of parents who find themselves intertwined after adopting four biological siblings, having committed to keeping the children as connected as possible.

At the heart of the family, the adoptive mothers grapple to define themselves and their new roles. Tabitha, who adopted the twins, crowns herself planner of the group, responsible for endless playdates and holidays, determined to create a perfect happy family. Quiet and steady Ginger, single mother to the eldest daughter, is wary of the way these complicated not-fully-family relationships test her long held boundaries. And Elizabeth, still reeling from rounds of failed IVF, is terrified that her unhappiness after adopting a newborn means she was not meant to be a mother at all.

As they set out on their first family vacation, all three are pushed into uncomfortably close quarters. And when they receive a call from their children’s birth mother announcing she is pregnant again, the delicate bonds the women are struggling to form threaten to collapse as they each must consider how a family is found and formed.

My Thoughts:
This is the third book I've read by Eleanor Brown (The Weird Sisters and The Light of Paris) and, once again, here she is exploring family in all of its loving, messy, complicated ways. This seems to be her most personal book; she and her husband adopted their son four years ago, she tells us in the Author's Note. She writes: 
"As we have gone through the process of adopting and developing our open adoptive family, we are regularly surprised by how our reality differs from many people's ideas about adoption." 
In reading this book, I certainly found that to be true and the stories of the different families experiences eye-opening. And while I found the idea that one couple would be pregnant four times and each time give up their child for adoption, in reading Brown's notes, I found myself rethinking what an adoptive family might be. 

With both of Brown's previous books, I wrote that, while there were not real surprises, being exactly what I expected, in the end, was exactly what I wanted in the book. This time that's less true. While I figured that the women would resolve their differences by the end of the book (I'd call that a spoiler but I think you'll have figured that out in reading the summary - you know it's going to be that kind of book), the ending was not entirely what I expected and I so appreciated that this time. 

This book is a good reminder that even a family, albeit a completely new kind of family, often has secrets and feelings the others in the family know nothing about. This group of adults has chosen to form their family and, on the surface, it would appear that it's working really well. But each of these women is harboring secrets, resentments, and feelings. When thrown together for two weeks, with the unexpected news that their family may be changing (and some other complications), those issues gradually percolate to the top and boil over. It's only when they do that the women can resolve those issues and become the family they've thought they already were. 

As with the other of Brown's books that I've read, I think Any Other Family would make a good book club selection. It would, of course, be even more interesting if one of the members had their own adoption story to share. Oh wait - that would be my book club! As I think I've already decided on next year's theme (You Learn Something New Every Month), this might just make the cut. 


  1. I think I would enjoy this one, not sure if I read anything else by the author. Hope it makes for a good discussion.

  2. Sounds like a very complicated family situation.