Cover image for A member of the family : a novel
A member of the family : a novel
Merrell, Susan Scarf.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York, NY : HarperCollins Publisher, [2000]

Physical Description:
350 pages ; 25 cm
When their adopted Romanian son, a volatile, frequently violent child, begins to destroy the fabric of their family, the Latham's are faced with very difficult decisions.
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In this provocative first novel, a young Long Island couple must face the horrifying reality that the Romanian orphan they adopted as a toddler has turned into a volatile and violent five-year-old who is tearing their family apart.

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

Romanian orphans, sibling rivalry, AIDS, murder, suicide, alternative medicine, marital infidelity, religion and Long Island geography all play a part in this earnest, convoluted debut novel of family secrets and strained relations. Dentist Chris Latham and his wife, Deborah, a beautiful former photographer, have a good life in Chris's native Sag Harbor with their young daughter, Caroline. But when they decide to adopt a little boy to rescue him from Romania's horrifying orphanages, the family starts to implode. Like many Romanian orphans, 18-month-old Michael has been neglected and malnourished. He is a violent and uncontrollable toddler; eventually, he is expelled from kindergarten. Other children fear him, and their mothers shun Deborah. Caroline is attacked by her new little brother and neglected by her parents, who focus on Michael's problems. They try support groups, social workers, psychiatrists and homeopaths, but nothing tames their fierce son. As Michael destroys the Latham family, secrets about Chris's past emerge. Finally, the Lathams must choose: Can they keep Michael, or should they give him up? Merrell, author of the nonfiction Accidental Bond: How Sibling Connections Influence Adult Relationships, conveys the Lathams' anguish with insight. Though she obviously knows about the real-life dilemmas her novel depicts, she is less knowledgeable about the craft of fiction: throughout the narrative, subplots waver into loose ends; implausible or unnecessary descriptions break up the momentum; predictable asides explain what characters have been thinking; and flashbacks interrupt the plot flow. Parents dealing with difficult adoptions might find the novel helpful. Others may feel that Merrell has simply taken on too many issues at once. 5-city author tour. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Jounalist Merrell's heart-wrenching first novel draws on her knowledge of family systems (as revealed in the Accidental Bond: How Sibling Connections Influence Adult Relationships). In the coastal village of Sag Harbor, NY, Deborah and Chris Latham are resolute about having adopted, as an 18-month-old, a Romanian orphan named Michael. But after years of coping with Michael's abudive and difficult behavior, they can no longer watch as his actions begin to affect the well-bing of their marriage and their older daughter, Caroline. The Lathams have to face a parent's worst nightmare. Detailed prose and rich dialog shape this intricate story, which is comparable to the novels of Sue Miller and Chris Bohalian. This provocative book will make every reader think hard about the responsibilities of parenting and the complexities of marriage. A potential Oprah pick; recommended for all public libraries.-Beth Gibbs, P.L. of Charlotte & Mecklenburg Cty., NC (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.