It’s that time of year, and even in the best of circumstances giant holiday family gatherings can induce a whole lot of feelings. Many people are traveling all over the place for all kinds of holidays, and it’s bound to be stressful no matter what your situation is. What better way to take a break from your family event (you can tell everyone that Book Riot has mandated that you take book breaks!) than to read about families with terrible luck, terrible coping skills, or who are just downright terrible people. There’s something about reading about a fictional family’s foibles that helps you feel better about whatever stressful family situation you’re currently at.
From families covering up an accidental murder to families keeping terrible secrets to chaotic families trying to run an entire (super old) crumbling estate, these eight books focused on family drama (whether funny or serious or mob-boss-style) will help whisk you away from the current drama at hand, be it fighting family members or confused pets who can’t figure out where they are. And who knows, when you’re done, maybe you can pass the book off to another family member and have a great chat about what you would do if your family was in this situation.
The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls by Anissa Gray
Starting off with a mystery-focused family drama, this book revolves around the well-respected Butler family. But when the matriarch of the family, Althea, and her husband, Proctor, are arrested, the family finds themselves reeling as they try to determine what exactly happened, why Althea and Proctor aren’t talking, and what to tell the community, who has turned judging and prying eyes on them. This is a literary story with some mystery and a discussion on what it means to be a family and what we owe to others. It’s a highly engrossing story that you’ll find yourself swept away by.
House of Trelawney by Hannah Rothschild
Trelawney Castle in Cornwall, England, was once the proud home to a distinguished line of aristocrats, but by the early 2000s, it is, unfortunately, a sight for sore eyes. It’s literally falling apart thanks to time, poor upkeep of the estate, and abysmal management of the family finances. Kitto is the heir at the moment to the dynasty, if it can be called that, and he and his family all try their best to keep it going. When Anastasia, a scorned and banished-from-the-family woman, announces that her daughter is being sent to stay at the estate, Kitto is up in arms and confused, as he’s already flailing to keep everything in line. This is a true comedy of errors as Kitto realizes he has zero power, and the women in the family are the true heroes, stepping up to do what needs to be done and showing others what it means to be family, even when everything seems to be going horribly awry.
The Comedown by Rebekah Frumkin
This family dramedy is a dark and comedic look at a drug deal gone wrong and two families that get roped together in the worst of ways. Reggie Marshall and Leland Bloom-Mittwoch are the characters in question who, when a suitcase that contains a whole lot of cash disappears, find themselves grabbing their families and setting off on a weird, funny, strange, and harrowing adventure that they never wanted to be on.
Dial A for Aunties by Jesse Q. Sutanto
If you haven’t picked up this wild romcom yet, consider this your sign to do so now. What could be more fun to escape into during stressful family events than a story about a stressful family event gone horribly wrong, and ending up with a dead body and your aunties on the scene to help you hide it? That’s exactly what happens to Meddy, who, after a terrible date set up by her mom, accidentally (whoops!) kills her date, and then has to call her mom and aunties to help her hide and dispose of the body. On top of that, Meddy’s family is planning the largest wedding their business has ever had, so now is not really a great time for avoiding a murder charge! It’s truly the perfect blend of romcom, mystery, murder, and mayhem.
Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson
What begins with a friend asking another friend a simple favor — will you come watch the kids? — turns into something way more than Lillian bargained for. Her old friend Madison has asked her to come be her kids’ caretaker, and Lillian doesn’t really have much going for her in life at the moment. So she agrees, even though the two haven’t spoken since they were in school together and that scandal happened. When Lillian arrives, she meets the twins, and Madison informs them they’ll all be living in the guesthouse, away from Madison, her new husband, and their newest child. Her husband, after all, has to put on a family-man front, and these twins are his stepchildren. Oh, and they also spontaneously burst into flames when agitated.
A Good Family by A.H. Kim
The Min-Lindstroms are the perfect image of the all-American family who have made it and achieved all their dreams. Until Beth, the shining role model, head of a pharmaceutical company, lands in prison. Someone blew the whistle, and everyone has something to hide. Sam is left raising his and Beth’s two daughters on his own; Lise, the au pair, is instantly blamed; Hannah and Eva, the sisters, love their family dearly; and Martin, Beth’s brother, is heir to the fortune and isn’t talking. There’s so much to unpack in this white-collar crime novel that contains characters with more secrets than they know what to do with, and it’s the perfect mystery to get lost in.
The Loyalties by Delphine de Vigan
Originally published in French, this novel based on a true story follows a family who works to put up as many false fronts as they can with the hopes that no one will identify their true selves. Théo and Mathis are school friends, keeping secrets like young children often do, but Hélène, their teacher, soon becomes obsessed with them, to the point of no return. Meanwhile, Mathis’s parents are in a scandal of their own when Cécile finds something out about her husband that will change their relationship forever. This book discusses keeping up appearances to seem fine and “normal” when in the face of something catastrophic, and how we may not be as good at hiding as we think we are.
He Started It by Samantha Downing
Going out with a bang and a refrain many who grew up with siblings were used to hearing, this action-packed thriller features a ride-or-die family who will stop at nothing to get what they want. The siblings in this novel haven’t spoken in years, but when their grandfather dies and leaves a strange clue, they must come together to see out his last wishes — but most importantly, make sure they get their inheritance money. But nothing is simple, and even what seems like a straightforward road trip turns into something else entirely as secrets between family members come bursting out one by one.
Whatever it is you need a break from during this season — a large gathering, a stressful meal, one specific person that won’t leave you alone — these books will give you the escape you need. And if you’re looking for more, you can take a quiz to find your perfect family drama to read or check out these books about dysfunctional families for even more recommendations.