Book Review: The Figgs by Ali Bryan

The Figgs – Ali Bryan (Freehand Books, 2018)

The Figgs feels like a family you might really know. Your best friend’s family or the family who lives down the straight. Bryan nails the dynamic of adult siblings and she creates a comfortable, often hilarious group of characters.

June and Randy thought their retirement years would be quiet ones but all three of their children are still living at home in their 20s. Even worse, in June’s eyes, none of them seem to have plans beyond living with their parents forever. But when their youngest son (and maybe June’s favourite), Derek, unexpectedly becomes the primary caregiver of a newborn baby, the family draws together in brand new ways.

Family and its origins are the central theme of The Figgs. Derek is thrown into parenthood when he is barely functioning as an adult. Randy makes a surprising confession about a relationship he had as a young man, before meeting June. And June herself must come to terms with her own family past. Without giving anything away, the book’s major flaw was that these three storylines intersect a little too neatly. But Bryan dealt with them with sympathy and humour and the book as a whole is a quick and enjoyable read.

13 thoughts on “Book Review: The Figgs by Ali Bryan”

  1. Sometimes neatness works OK in a lighter book with humorous aspects, though it does tend to lessen the credibility. Good to see siblings get some attention – often an overlooked relationship in fiction!

  2. I read this book when it first came out and loved it! I know Ali, she’s a hilarious mom here in Calgary so I wasn’t surprised to enjoy her writing. Her first book Roost is also very good and also very funny 🙂

  3. I thought this book was so funny. It does tie up a little too easily, but it’s a feel-good book so very forgivable (in my opinion). I also loved her first book! I haven’t read her most recent yet…

    1. Yes, I’m definitely more willing to accept some of those easy conclusions in a lighter book like this because it’s more about the fun of the characters and story.

  4. I’ve been wondering a lot lately about adult children living with parents in the U.S. Not sure how much it happens in Canada. Anyway, I have several family members over 18 living at home and not going to school. They do not contribute to the household, either. But then I compare that to Asian countries in which it is considered both normal and fortunate to have several generations living together. CBS News did a whole thing about Japan, I think it was, and how women can go happily back to work knowing their mom or mom-in-law are watching the new baby. And they all live together harmoniously. They are thankful for each other.

    1. There’s definitely a cultural difference. And, I think, there’s a big difference between adults living with their parents and contributing to the household and adults living off their parents. I have read in several places how our modern idea of the single family is pretty recent. Parents feel overwhelmed trying to care for their children but previous generations didn’t do it the way we do. They had grandparents either living with them or very close by, as well as other extended family. I know I have only been able to work these past years because we have my in-laws to help us.

    2. Oh! I didn’t even think about your in-laws being nearby because I don’t remember you mentioning them too often in your updates. Perhaps they are more private people and don’t want to be on a blog? Or it’s a normal part of your life now and doesn’t seem “noteworthy”? I took a class on adolescent development in college and was amazed at how the way we raise children now is so at odds with how we’ve always raised them throughout history. We even discussed how in countries like the U.S. that the information your parents have about child-rearing is out of date because we don’t information share the same way they do in Africa, Asia, and South America.

    3. They are a pretty regular part of our lives so I guess it doesn’t seem noteworthy to mention every time I see them! But we are really fortunate to have them so near.

      You’re right about how, in the West at least, we’ve taken a pretty isolated route for child-reading. But I also think that some of it has to do with how much the world has changed, even in a couple of generations. Things like social media and the internet weren’t a factor when you and I were kids so I can’t examine the way my parents dealt with those things and decide my own parenting based on that. In fact, one of the things I’ve personally found really hard about parenting through this pandemic is that I have no one more experienced to turn to for advice. My parents never parented through lockdowns. None of my friends with kids slightly older could offer advice on the pros and cons of making my 2-year-old wear a mask. There are a hundred small (and some big) decisions I’ve had to make over these past 2 years for my kids and everyone around me is also making them so I have no one a little further ahead to look to. It’s exhausting. But I also know that’s basically what all of us have been doing, parents or not. Getting back to my point, we live really different lives than our parents and grandparents and so some of that information that would traditionally be shared isn’t as helpful as it might have been a few generations ago.

    4. Yes! These are all things my professor said about generational parenting: in the West it does not work. I even recall a small example of a time when my mom offered sun screen to her niece, who had a baby only a couple of months old. Apparently, now they know that babies should NOT use regular sun screen and have a special baby formula. My mom felt like she knew nothing.

    5. Yes! Even really basic things like how babies sleep and eat – all those recommendations have changed entirely in just one generation! And our parents did things really differently from their own parents too so there is this generational disconnect and then there becomes a reluctance to share knowledge when it seems like it’s all being rejected.

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