Masterful, tender, funny, sexy, and above all wise
FAMILY OF ORIGIN
by CJ Hauser
Doubleday, Summer 2019
Estranged half-siblings, Minnesota-bred Elsa and San Francisco-raised Nolan Grey, do not share bedrooms. They try not to even share the same time zone. It’s safer that way. But when their father, a disgraced evolutionary biologist, drowns in the waters off his field station’s remote Gulf Coast island, they find themselves suddenly yoked on a week’s long pilgrimage to jointly reclaim his belongings and memory, and to try to understand the stakes of the research that he abandoned them both to prove. To do so, they must spend a week living on Leap’s Island with the colorful quacks with whom Dr. Ian Grey was conducting research, a group of so-called “Reversalists,” who think the species of sea duck they’re studying proves their core belief: that evolution is running backwards. Needless to say, The Reversalists are crazy. Yet what the surviving Greys find on Leap’s is not an island of zany crackpots, but rather a collection of incredibly smart scientists whose misguided belief in Reversalism seems to have more to do with their own lost faith in humankind and the idea of progress, in their fear that the world is doomed and that millennials are to blame, than anything scientific. The Grey children, as the islanders come to call them, despite their being 35 and 29 respectively, are incredulous that their father’s rigorous mind could have grown so soft as to believe in Reversalism’s pseudo-science. But more urgently, they are haunted by a different question: Did Elsa and Nolan really break Ian’s heart so deeply in the various ways they betrayed him and each other on the mainland that Ian had lost hope in their entire generation? Or is there hope for them, and for all of us, yet?
CJ Hauser teaches creative writing and literature at Colgate University. She is the author of the novel “The From-Aways” (William Morrow, 2014), a book from which FAMILY OF ORIGIN represents a quantum leap forward. Her fiction has appeared in Tin House, Narrative Magazine, TriQuarterly, Esquire, Third Coast, SLICE, Hobart, The Minnesota Review, and The Kenyon Review. She is the 2010 recipient of McSweeney’s Amanda Davis Highwire Fiction Award, the winner of the 2012 Jaimy Gordon Prize in Fiction, Winner of Narrative’s Fall 2014 Short Story Prize, and the A Room of Her Own Foundation’s Orlando Prize for Sudden Fiction.