The Other Family: A Book Review

Ally Anderson’s daughter needs her help, especially after a peanut scare at school. But is Ally ready for all that comes her way when the doctor requests genetic testing?

The Other Family by Loretta Nyhan is book number six for this author! Nyhan’s books range from middle-age coming-of-age stories to paranormal-witchy stories. Like me, she admits to not living well without chocolate. And really, can you blame her? She also loves green tea and her Brady-Bunch family that she’s raising in the Chicago area.

My Thoughts on The Other Family

I chose to read Nyhan’s most recent novel after realizing it deals with similar topics as I NOT David. A skeptical spouse and a child with a medical condition in the same genre as my book? Yes, please! I wanted to see how her characters handled situations and familiarize myself with her writing style.

What’s the basics of the story?

The Other Family deals with main character Ally Anderson and her life as she tries to deal with her daughter’s autoimmune problems and allergies. But that’s not all she has on her plate. Her soon-to-be-ex throws a few kinks in her direction. Moreover, her daughter’s latest doctor thinks genetic testing would help narrow down the possible diagnoses. However, Ally is adopted, and her mom has never spoken of her birth family. And, of course, Ally meets some relatives and then can’t figure out how to tell her mom.

The Good

This book, written in first person, has several quirky events and characters to add just the right amount of humor. Its current Amazon rankings, which are above the top 15 books in both women’s humorous fiction and humorous literary fiction, easily prove that point.

For me, the main character’s newly found family, best described as lovingly eccentric, balances Ally’s serious mother well. But, occasionally, they seem a little over the top. Still, they know how to love life even when hardship strikes. They also understand what’s most important in life. Those things say a lot, and I’d probably invite them into my home for a short period of time.

The Not Bad

Ally, on the other hand, is one high-strung character who doesn’t give up. Many mothers of children with health conditions find themselves in similar positions. Ally takes on the world from every direction. She sets some important things on the back burner because the rest of life exhausts her. And she finds herself in a few pickles because of it. In many ways, she’s realistic.

She drives me crazy–batty.

We generally love books with characters we can relate to. Those who make us cry, laugh, and smile. Ally made me want to scream. She’s the mother who does everything for her child by running around like a chicken with its head cut off. It’s her weakness. Nyhan did a great job building her weakness. Ally knows what she wants. She’s determined to get there. But she takes some asinine steps along the way.

None of that makes her a bad character. She’s just not a character for me. I didn’t relate to any of the characters like I wanted to. So you’ll understand why The Other Family isn’t my favorite book of all time. But it could still be yours.

Clean factors

The Other Family contains a spattering of moderate curse words as well as separated-but-still-married characters who contemplate dating others. The book is clean of sexual discussion but does have one slightly funny moment of accidental nudity. The scene is harmless, but I mention it for those who might feel differently. While a book I consider clean enough for older teenagers, its subject matter is for adults.

The Official Blurb

With a dissolving marriage, strained finances, and her life in flux, Ally Anderson longs for normal. Her greatest concerns, though, are the health problems of her young daughter, Kylie. Symptoms point to a compromised immune system, but every doctor they’ve seen has a different theory. Then comes hope for some clarity.

It’s possible that Kylie’s illness is genetic, but Ally is adopted. A DNA test opens up an entirely new path. And where it leads is a surprise: to an aunt Ally never knew existed. She’s a little wild, very welcoming, and ready to share more of the family history than Ally ever imagined.

Coping with a skeptical soon-to-be-ex husband, weathering the cautions of her own resistant mother, and getting maddeningly close to the healing Kylie needs, Ally is determined to regain control of her life. This is her chance to embrace uncertainty and the beauty of family—both the one she was born into and the one she chose.

Other Info

Purchase your copy of The Other Family on Amazon.

Follow Loretta Nyhan on Facebook, Twitter, and her webpage.

I received no compensation or free merchandise for this review. All opinions are honest and my own.

Looking for your next book? Visit my recommended reads page.
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Flash Fiction: Broken Daisies

Flash Fiction: Broken Daisies
Photo by Albert Bridge

The worn welt curved around the edges of my suitcase, threatening to pop from the seams as the zipper stretched to accommodate the overflowing clothing. Muttered vengeful words never reached my ears, but I understood them. My lips spit them out. No matter what I tried, nothing changed. Old houses only got older, cars broke down, jobs disappeared, and bank accounts stayed empty. Just once I wanted to run my dishwasher without washing the dishes first or order a pizza because it sounded good. Instead, I mopped up kids’ barf and scrubbed bathrooms only to return home and do the same for my family. Rob slept through the night and most mornings. The rest of the time he slumped at the computer looking for work.

I stopped in the bathroom and gathered other necessities. Toothbrush, makeup, deodorant. Beard trimmings speckled the sink. How hard was it to get rid of beard trimmings? I reached over and turned on the leaky faucet, splashing water over the top of the stiff hairs. The drain gurgled as it worked to keep up with the flow. Questioning what I was doing, I shut the water off—as best as I could, anyway—and left my suitcase by the front door.

My sneakers lifted from a sticky spot on the floor and squelched the rest of the way into the kitchen. I’d dropped the kids off at Mom’s earlier. Vacation. That’s what they called it. I hadn’t told them my plans yet. I hadn’t told Rob, but I was about to. The quiet of the house sent eerie tingles down my spine, reminding me how much I hated it.

As I walked past the corner of the counter, a crashing sound caught my attention. A broken glass covered in painted white daisies met my gaze. My elbow had knocked it off. Slowly squatting near the fragmented mess, the first tear traced the side of my cheek. The last glass—the others had broken years before. Somehow it seemed fitting that it would break today. Still, I cried.
I’d placed the glassware on our wedding registry ten years ago, hoping some kind soul would take pity on me and give something other than the standard clear Walmart specials sold for $8.99. Opening that wrapped package brought me almost as much joy as marrying Rob.

Picking up the largest shard, I gently rubbed my forefinger over the daisy design. I never thought daisies were pretty. Their basic petals and yellow centers dotted children’s drawings and their leaves reminded me of overgrown cilantro. So many times I’d dreamed of beautiful flowers with unique petals and vivid colors. Orchids, lilies, hibiscus, they all bloomed in so many varieties, but daisies invaded lawns. Then Rob gave me daisies when he proposed. Daisies—not roses—simple daisies. Suddenly my whole outlook had changed.

I clutched the shard to my chest and wept as I remembered his knit brows and how his lips had trembled. Down on one knee, his eyes glistened and his voice cracked when he eased the words will you marry me from his tongue. It was months later when he told me about the rock piercing his kneecap. All that time I thought he’d been trying not to cry.

A corner of my mouth threatened to turn up at the memory, but as I looked at the painted remnant in my hand, the tears returned, and I sank further to the floor. That day daisies had become my favorite flower. It wasn’t a distaste in cheap wares that caused me to register for the glasses. Not really.

Two kids and five years into our marriage, I screamed at Rob for his laziness. Why couldn’t he keep a job? Struggling as newlyweds was one thing, but we had two children. In my anger, I’d picked up the closest thing and threw it at the wall, intentionally missing him. The first glass. He held me in his arms as I realized what I’d thrown. Hair tickled my cheek as he brushed it away from my face, comforting me by pulling me closer. Promises of better jobs and a house with new carpeting filled my ears. My anger died when I saw what I’d thrown, but he didn’t need to know that.

A few years later, I told Rob why daisies were my favorite flower, including how I’d never liked them previously. Less than a week afterward, Rob purchased a bouquet of beautiful pink lollipop daisies and enlisted our daughter Emma’s help. The flowered glass slipped from her hands as she filled it with water. After cleaning up the mess, Rob filled the next one. I’d never seen such a beautiful sight as my smiling daughter standing next to her father as they presented me with the gift.

Though I tried to drop the shard to the floor and stand to tell Rob of my plans, my body refused. Tears spotted my blouse, and a small puddle formed on the floor, but only stains lined my cheeks now.

Warm hands rubbed at my shoulders, and I reached up, clutching one. “I broke the last one.”

“Are you sure about that?” His soft voice comforted me. But I had a plan…

“Yeah. I remember two others breaking, and the third disappeared years ago.”

“Disappeared where?”

I shrugged. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t remember. “I should have put this one up.”

“Wait here.”

Rob disappeared, and emptiness surrounded me as I stared at the glass, heaviness returning to my body. Shuffling noise echoed from the hallway, but nothing seemed important anymore.

“Christy?”

My eyes lifted as they fell on the item Rob held before me. “Where?”

He pulled me to my feet and held me in his arms. “I put one away for safekeeping.”

“You…?” My words faded.

“I know you love them.” He loosened his hold on me and glanced toward the door. “Are you going somewhere?”

“What? No. I-I thought I might, but I’ve changed my mind.”

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