Spanning decades and documenting the lives of multiple members of the same families, you’ll want to settle in with these 5 must-read epic multigenerational family sagas.
1. “. . . And Ladies of the Club” by Helen Hooven Santmyer
“…recounts the lives of a group of women who start a study club in a small town in southwestern Ohio in 1868. Over the years, the club evolves into an influential community service organization in the town. Numerous characters are introduced in the course of the novel but primary are Anne Gordon and Sally Rausch who, as the book begins, are new graduates of the Waynesboro Female Seminary. The novel covers decades of their lives—chronicling the two women’s marriages and those of their children and grandchildren. Santmyer focuses not just on the lives of the women in the club, but also their families and friends and the politics and developments in their small town and the larger world.”
2. Commonwealth by Ann Patchett
“One Sunday afternoon in Southern California, Bert Cousins shows up at Franny Keating’s christening party uninvited. Before evening falls, he has kissed Franny’s mother, Beverly—thus setting in motion the dissolution of their marriages and the joining of two families.
“Spanning five decades, Commonwealth explores how this chance encounter reverberates through the lives of the four parents and six children involved. Spending summers together in Virginia, the Keating and Cousins children forge a lasting bond that is based on a shared disillusionment with their parents and the strange and genuine affection that grows up between them.
“When, in her twenties, Franny begins an affair with the legendary author Leon Posen and tells him about her family, the story of her siblings is no longer hers to control. Their childhood becomes the basis for his wildly successful book, ultimately forcing them to come to terms with their losses, their guilt, and the deeply loyal connection they feel for one another.
“Told with equal measures of humor and heartbreak, Commonwealth is a meditation on inspiration, interpretation, and the ownership of stories. It is a brilliant and tender tale of the far-reaching ties of love and responsibility that bind us together.”
3. The Ice Palace Waltz by Barbara L. Baer
“In the autumn of 1895, citizens of Leadville, Colorado construct the Ice Palace: a last sign of hope for the fading silver mining town. There, on New Year’s Eve beneath the magic lights and frozen ramparts of this fantastic ice marvel, Max Selig and the Grensky brothers, enemies and rivals, watch the youngest members of their families, June Selig and Nathan Grensky, dance and fall in love.
“Across the country in New York City, the waning years of the Gilded Age and a failed stock market gamble crushes the dreams of the Greenbaums. Only vivacious, copper-haired Tillie can save her family from ruin by entering into a marriage of convenience.
“Two decades later, Tillie, resigned to a passionless marriage, encourages her daughter Margie to live the romance she was denied and take a chance on the dashing, hard-drinking newsman Tommy Grensky, the Leadville Ice Palace lovers’ son. But when the young couple travels to London in 1937, they encounter a changing Europe under the rise of Nazism.
“In The Ice Palace Waltz, two Jewish immigrant families—the rough and ready Western pioneers and the smooth, “our crowd” New Yorkers—come together in a riveting family saga amid the financial and social tumult of early twentieth century America.”
4. The Prince of Tides by Pat Conway
“Pat Conroy’s classic novel stings with honesty and resounds with drama. Spanning forty years, it’s the story of turbulent Tom Wingo, his gifted and troubled twin sister, Savannah, and their struggle to triumph over the dark and tragic legacy of the extraordinary family into which they were born. Filled with the vanishing beauty of the South Carolina Low Country as well as the dusty glitter of New York City, The Prince of Tides showcases an American original at his very best.”
5. The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tam
“Four mothers, four daughters, four families whose histories shift with the four winds depending on who’s “saying” the stories. In 1949 four Chinese women, recent immigrants to San Francisco, begin meeting to eat dim sum, play mahjong, and talk. United in shared unspeakable loss and hope, they call themselves the Joy Luck Club. Rather than sink into tragedy, they choose to gather to raise their spirits and money. “To despair was to wish back for something already lost. Or to prolong what was already unbearable.” Forty years later the stories and history continue.
“With wit and sensitivity, Amy Tan examines the sometimes painful, often tender, and always deep connection between mothers and daughters. As each woman reveals her secrets, trying to unravel the truth about her life, the strings become more tangled, more entwined. Mothers boast or despair over daughters, and daughters roll their eyes even as they feel the inextricable tightening of their matriarchal ties. Tan is an astute storyteller, enticing readers to immerse themselves into these lives of complexity and mystery.”