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Book Review // Did You Ever Have A Family by Bill Clegg

Did You Ever Have A Family by Bill Clegg {Goodreads}
Published by Jonathan Cape in 2015
Hardback edition; 304 pages {BookDepository}

The day before her daughter’s wedding, tragedy strikes June’s life. Flames consume her house and with it, her daughter and soon to be son-in-law, her ex-husband and her boyfriend. She’s the only survivor and unable to cope with the pain, she leaves the town and everything behind and finds herself in a motel room, trapped by her past.

Did You Ever Have A Family follows several voices, all of them connected one way or another to the ones who perished in the fire and the survivor. We learn about their pasts, their mistakes, their secrets and their lives now months after the terrible tragedy while they try to accept why their loves ones are no longer among them.
Grief is personal, each and every one of us grief and face disaster differently and that’s what Did You Ever Have A Family was all about, or rather how to continue with your life grieving. It isn’t much about overcoming that grief; is about living with it knowing that you are not going to get rid of it, that it will be a part of you for the rest of your life.

Clegg’s debut novel explores these issues in such a beautiful and calm way in the middle of a tragedy and its horrendous aftermath. We get to know the difficult times they are going through as well as past experiences. What got them there; to the exact point before the catastrophe. All the characters got under my skin for several reasons and left their mark within me.

Don’t expect any proper action; it’s not that kind of book. It focused on the characters and their feelings, their memories and regrets. It’s slow but steady; I couldn’t put it down.
What it taught me is that life comes as quickly as it goes and we can’t control it, that we need to keep living even though we’ve lost everything. We want the world to stop but unfortunately, it doesn’t. Not for you, not for everyone. And it’s sad but we cannot change it. Though sad, I didn't feel it throughout the novel. I tend to cry –a lot – if I’m reading a depressing book but weird enough it was after reading it when the tears came and I couldn’t stop them. It hit me right and hard on the feels after reading the last line and closing the book. In a sense I was grieving too.

Did You Ever Have A Family will stay with me for a long time and it definitely deserves its own spot on my favourites this year.


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