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Bill Blair finds the land by accident - three wooded acres in a rustic community south of San Francisco. The year is 1954, long before anyone will call this area Silicon Valley. Struck by a vision of the family he has yet to create, Bill buys the property on a whim. In Penny Greenway he finds a suitable wife, a woman whose yearning attitude toward life seems compelling and answerable, and they marry and have four children. Yet Penny is a mercurial housewife at a time when women chafed at the conventions imposed on them. She finds salvation in art, but the cost is high.
Thirty years later the three oldest Blair children, adults now and still living near the family home, are disrupted by the return of the youngest, whose sudden presence and all-too-familiar troubles force a reckoning with who they are, separately and together, and set off a struggle over the family's future. One by one the siblings take turns telling the story - Robert, a doctor like their father; Rebecca, a psychiatrist; Ryan, a schoolteacher; and James, the malcontent, the problem child, the only one who hasn't settled down - their narratives interwoven with portraits of the family at crucial points in their history.
Reviewers have praised Ann Packer's "brilliant ear for character" (The New York Times Book Review), her "naturalist's vigilance for detail, so that her characters seem observed rather than invented" (The New Yorker), and the "utterly lifelike quality of her book's everyday detail" (The New York Times). Her talents are on dazzling display in The Children's Crusade, an extraordinary study in character, a rare and wise examination of the legacy of early life on adult children attempting to create successful families and identities of their own. This is Ann Packer's most deeply affecting book yet.
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Beth Anne on 07-20-15
Slow poignant storytelling
One of the most interesting, poignant, sad and true stories of a family in (and out) of turmoil I have read in a while. The characters are so real I felt like I was a part of their lives, I was so wrapped up in each of their stories. Slow and steady storytelling with not much action, but a lot of revelation. Loved it
4 of 4 people found this review helpful
By Valerie on 08-20-16
This is a beautifully crafted novel with timeless content about families and human relationships. It is read with perfection. I recommend it to all who listen to straightforward readings of literary fiction. I couldn't put it down.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful