Ann Brashare’s new book The Whole Thing Together is about a family who is just about as dysfunctional as it gets. It all started when Lila married Robert, and together they had three daughters, Emma, Quinn, and Mattie. After Lila and Robert had an incredibly bitter and nasty divorce, Lila got remarried to Adam, and Robert got remarried to Evie. Adam had two children from his previous marriage, but they’re not part of this particularly complicated equation. Then Lila and Evie got pregnant at the exact same time. Born only weeks apart, Lila and Adam had Ray, and Robert and Evie had Sasha. Due to their inability to be at least somewhat cordial around each other under any circumstances, Lila and Robert split their time with their three daughters, and also their summer home on Long Island. It had belonged to Lila’s family but when Lila’s father almost lost it due to financial issues, Robert stepped up and saved the house from foreclosure. During their splitting of assets during their divorce negotiations, both Lila and Robert stubbornly refused to give up the Long Island house because they both felt as if they were the rightful owner. Finally, a truce was made and they agreed to split up their time in the house, rotating ownership by the week. The only family members who didn’t have rotate their time in the house were their three daughters, Quinn, Emma and Mattie. Since so much hostility remains between them, they have the turn around scheduled carefully so they don’t ever have to encounter one another. Because of Lila and Robert’s carefully choreographed routine of never being in the same place at the same time and having no contact with each other, Ray and Sasha have never actually met despite having three half-sisters in common and sharing the same room every other week, and also sharing the fact that they are the only members of the family who share no blood relation. They’ve shared a lot through the years, books, toys, and various other things including their summer job. Each of them have imagined how the other spent their time in their shared room, wondering about the curious stranger with whom they have so much in common. After a brief chance encounter between Sasha and Ray at a party where they finally see each other for the first time, they are now more curious about their counterpart than ever, leading them to start communicating via notes, texts, and emails through which they begin to get to know one another apart from just being the other sibling that their half-sisters split time and a home with.
When a family celebration is planned that gives Lila and Robert no choice but to be in the same space at the same time for the first time since their divorce, tensions that have bubbled under the surface all these years come to a head and chaos ensues. After the disastrous family party that was meant to be a joyous occasion is over, the entire family endures a heartbreaking and tragic loss. The animosity in the family is replaced by overwhelming grief, and the whole family comes together to mourn, putting aside their differences for the first time.
The book is a beautiful story about family, and all of the ups and downs that come with it. Ann Brashares is truly a gifted writer, and this book again proves how wonderful she is at letting you really get to know her characters, and eliciting imagery so well that you feel as though you’re right in the story with them. Her stories never fail to leave you feeling touched by the way she writes with such sincerity, and they manage to stick with you long after you’ve finished reading them.
This book is out April 25th! Seriously, do yourself a favor and pre-order a copy now!