Family Connections (by Anna Jacobs)

I am a little surprised that I have not, previously, come across Anna Jacobs, since I see from her web site that she has published forty novels, mostly historical fiction and modern character-driven books - two of my favourite genres.

Family connections is one of the modern ones, with a large number of characters.

Brad from Australia, who was recently widowed, gets a letter out of the blue from Rosie, his biological daughter in England. He had no idea she existed, but decides to retire early and go to the UK to meet her - much to the disapproval of his two children in Australia.

Gina, also from Australia, is sorting through her late father's house. She comes across family documents and realise she has a half-brother and half-sister in the UK. She wants to go and meet them, as she grew up thinking she had no relatives other than her parents. But one of her daughters is having a difficult time with a pregnancy so Gina doesn't feel she can leave her.

Meanwhile Lou, granddaughter of Gina's half-brother, learns about her Australian relatives. Despite the extreme disapproval of her mother, Lou and her boyfriend decide to go backpacking in Australia, hoping to meet Gina and her family.

Then there's Gina's half-sister, who is in an emotionally abusive marriage. And Rosie's adoptive father, who is depressed because someone else has been given the job he has been doing for years, and worried that Rosie may not want him as a dad any more.

I was a bit confused, at first, by the sheer number of characters in this novel. I was also rather muddled by the different subplots which are introduced one after another, apparently unrelated until the threads slowly begin to weave together. I found myself frequently turning back to find out who I was reading about.

Nevertheless, it's an enjoyable tale. There's quite a bit of tension as different people try to meet each other, and are thwarted, but not so much as to make me stay awake at night. I could feel some of the stress in various situations, as characters struggled, wept, quarrelled and (in some cases) were reunited, and I wanted the various threads to be sorted out.

My main problem with the book was the number of coincidences in the story. I could have believed one or two, but at least one was so unlikely that I felt a little cheated, even though I could foresee it and it helped to make a satisfactory and tidy conclusion.

But on the whole I enjoyed it. There are underlying messages about the need to move forward, letting go of past hurts and grudges, and also about the need, sometimes, to break free of a situation that becomes out of control. There's an underlying morality that suits my own worldview, showing the importance of forgiveness, fidelity, and family ties in general.

Recommended for a pleasant light read, if you enjoy general family-related character-driven novels.

(I originally reviewed 'Family Connections' for The Bookbag)

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