Zoning, pollution, racism, anti-Semitism — these are heavy themes that could easily overwhelm “Strangers and Cousins” or, worse, look tritely exploited by it. But that’s the real artistry of Cohen’s work: her sensitive exploration of the whole range of our complicated, compromised lives. And she puts to rest the smug assumption that there’s anything minor or unambitious about a witty domestic novel. After all, for most of us, hatred is stoked or quelled in living rooms. In such little arenas, our ideals and fears play out, grandly or meanly.
3.4 rating based on 2,416 ratings (all editions)
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 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 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.