Posted by: Jeanie F | November 28, 2009

Friend of the Family by Lauren Grodstein


A Friend of the Family is the story of Pete Dizinoff, a man who once lived the suburban version of The American Dream, but has recently fallen from grace. In fact, as the novel begins, it seems he has taken several extreme falls, resulting in the loss of  his marriage, his son, his career, and, as he faces a malpractice lawsuit, possibly his home and financial security.

Without giving too much away, Dizinof is a successful internist with a home and medical practice in an affluent New Jersey suburb. He’s lived the good life – close friends, loving (not to mention deferential) wife, a son he adores. A series of poor judgements, both personal and professional, rock his world. What they don’t seem to do, however, is rock his arrogant confidence in his own point of view. Dr. Pete, as he likes to be called, is a man who would rather be right than be happy.

This book has the potential to be a modern day King Lear. However, as the plot moves back and forth in somewhat confusing time shifts, we learn that Pete’s flaws – perhaps more quotidian than tragic – cause his own downfall. Unlike Lear, Pete never seems to come to the realization that he has no one but himself to blame which, ultimately, makes him less tragic hero and more whiney suburban Baby Boomer. So much the pity because this could have been a great cautionary tale for the many Pete Dizinoffs who walk among us.

Grade: B


  1. Doesn’t sound like you loved it. Probably not for me either…

  2. You’re right, Jamye, I didn’t love it. It was a quick read, but I found myself frustrated that the author didn’t require more from the characters or the reader. I felt like a lot more could have been done with a premise that had a lot of potential.

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