4 Multi-Generational Family Dramas set in the Suburbs

By Mallory M.

There is something so interesting to me about books that feature multi-generational family drama, told through multiple perspectives. And the perfect setting for books like these is often a suburb, somewhere on the outskirts of a big city with a smaller community where tension between neighbors tends to thrive. I noticed that I have read so many books with these exact features, and I wanted to share them with you!

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

This book is stunning. In just 338 pages, Ng manages to suck the reader into the world of the Cleveland suburb, Shaker Heights, and the orbit of the Richardson and Warren families. The plot of this book has it all – a teenage love triangle, a sleuthy suburban mom, and a deep look into motherhood. Getting multiple points of view, from all of the teenagers and both of the mothers, helps to drive the story and pushes the reader to connect with the characters. A little bit of a mystery and a little bit of a courtroom drama, this book is a captivating and fascinating look at the cracks in a seemingly perfect town.

Crossroads by Jonathan Franzen

A completely absorbing family drama where each character is so fully involved in their own story that they have no clue what is going on with anyone else around them. Crossroads features a captivating cast of characters: a mom with a darker past than anyone could expect, a pastor father who feels betrayed by his children, a drug dealer for 7th graders, one sex obsessed college drop out, and a daughter blowing her unexpected inheritance on a European vacation. The opening for Franzen’s A Key to All Mythologies trilogy, this book is a tumultuous look at a family growing apart and coming together.

A Good Neighborhood by Therese Ann Fowler

An examination of what it means to be a good neighbor, especially when you don’t see eye to eye. When the Whitman family moves into the house next door, Brad and Julia immediately start clashing with single mom and ecology professor Valerie over the historic tree in her yard as their daughter falls in love with Valerie’s biracial son. Each chapter opens with an unique, eerie narration from the rest of the neighborhood, which adds to this provocative look at class and race.

What’s Mine and Yours by Naima Coster

The only book on this list with a non-linear timeline, this novel follows two families in a North Carolina town who are at odds over the integration of their children’s schools. As the children grow into adults, the reader grows with them. At its heart, this is a character story. The plot almost falls to the wayside as the reader gets to know each character and understand their motivations. Spanning 30 years, this novel grapples with addiction, race, grief, and incarceration. Reading this truly felt like I was just hanging out with the characters, and I loved every second of it. 

Although these books all have a similar setting and share many of the same themes, each one is truly unique and worth the read. I don’t think I’ll ever stop picking up new suburban takes on intergenerational drama.

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