11 Unputdownable Books About Family Drama

Families come in all different shapes and sizes, but one thing is certain: Spending time with your loved ones can be a challenge. The following books, from domestic thrillers to bighearted dramas, explore all the heartache and delight that comes with being part of a family, and the enduring power of familial love.

Brandon Miller

We Are the Brennans

By Tracey Lange

Tracey Lange’s dazzling debut novel will keep you hooked until the very last page with its narrative of family, loyalty, and love. After narrowly surviving a drunk-driving accident in Los Angeles, Sunday Brennan returns home to her large Irish Catholic family in New York. She hopes to heal her wounds and get her life back on track. Doing so, however, won’t be easy. Five years prior, Sunday abandoned her loved ones — and her high school sweetheart — with little explanation. Now she must answer questions about why she left so abruptly and mend the relationships that she damaged with her departure. But when a man from Sunday’s past threatens to destroy the family pub business, the entire Brennan clan must reckon with their troubled history if they hope to survive as a family unit. “Fans of intense family dramas are in for a treat” (Publishers Weekly) with this New York Times bestseller.

A Nearly Normal Family Book Cover

A Nearly Normal Family

By M.T. Edvardsson

In this “compulsively readable tour de force” (The Wall Street Journal), Swedish author M.T. Edvardsson delivers an electrifying domestic thriller about guilt, deception, and family devotion. When 18-year-old Stella Sandell is accused of murdering a businessman nearly twice her age, it sends shockwaves through her suburban community — and forces her parents to question how well they truly know their daughter. Stella’s father, a respected pastor, has the utmost faith in his daughter’s honesty and innocence; Stella’s mother, a defense attorney, is less convinced. As pressure mounts and evidence builds, the Sandells must ask themselves how far they’re willing to go to keep their family intact.

Ask Again, Yes

By Mary Beth Keane

New York Times bestselling author Mary Beth Keane introduces us to the Gleesons and the Stanhopes, two law enforcement families in the 1970s living just outside of New York City. At first glance, the Gleesons and the Stanhopes lead unremarkable suburban lives. Behind closed doors, however, a tragic domestic drama unfolds. Though a disastrous event drives the parents apart, the Gleeson and Stanhope children remain intertwined. Telling what happens from multiple points of view over the course of three decades, Keane unfurls a powerful tale about the family secrets we keep, the heartbreak we endure, and the redemptive power of love.

The Nest

By Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney

In her hilarious and heartwarming debut, Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney crafts a captivating family drama that you won’t be able to put down. The novel focuses on the Plumb siblings, four wildly different adults, as they’re set to receive their long-awaited inheritance. Each sibling — Melody, Beatrice, Jack, and Leo — has their own need for the money, complicating their relationships and testing their bonds. The inheritance forces the four siblings to examine their life choices, explore their umbrages, and reconsider their futures.

Little Fires Everywhere

By Celeste Ng

Celeste Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere was recently adapted into a popular miniseries starring Kerry Washington and Reese Witherspoon — and it’s easy to see why the sizzling domestic drama left so many people talking. The novel takes place in Shaker Heights, Ohio, around the 1990s. It focuses on two families: the Richardsons, a nuclear family unit, and the Warrens, an unconventional mother–daughter duo. As Elena Richardson is drawn into the lives of single mother Mia Warren and her daughter, Pearl, it soon becomes clear that Mia has secrets to hide, and that Elana’s own suburban existence may not be as picture-perfect as it seems.

Sharp Objects

By Gillian Flynn

In Gillian Flynn’s New York Times bestselling thriller, journalist Camille Preaker returns to her small Missouri hometown to cover the murders of two young girls. Forced to move back into her childhood home with her neurotic mother, her mother’s husband, and a half-sister she barely knows, Camille must grapple with past family traumas and her own inner demons all while unraveling the mystery of the murdered preteens. Flynn’s debut served as the basis for the Emmy-nominated HBO miniseries, starring Amy Adams, and is a riveting narrative about one woman’s search for the truth while reckoning with her past.

The Last Thing He Told Me

By Laura Dave

This fast-paced domestic thriller by bestselling author Laura Dave will have you on the edge of your seat. Hannah Hall is just one year into her marriage with Owen Michaels when Owen disappears without warning. The only clue he’s left behind? A note imploring Hannah to watch over his teenage daughter, Bailey. Bailey isn’t exactly a fan of her stepmother. Yet as federal agents close in and shocking truths come to light, it soon becomes clear that the family life Hannah and Bailey had been living was a lie. Now, the stepmother–stepdaughter duo must work together to uncover Owen’s true identity and solve the mystery of his disappearance.

A Woman Is No Man

By Etaf Rum

Etaf Rum’s celebrated bestseller traces the intersecting lives of three generations of Palestinian-American women. In 1990, young Isra is uprooted from Palestine and sent to Brooklyn to marry a man named Adam. Not only must Isra navigate life with her new husband, she must also adapt to the demands of her domineering mother-in-law, Fareeda. Decades later, 18-year-old Deya — Isra’s eldest daughter — is being pressured by Fareeda to follow the same marital path. But Deya is about to uncover startling family truths that will upend her opinion of her parents and reset her vision for the future.

The Vanishing Half

By Brit Bennett

In this #1 New York Times bestselling novel, Brit Bennett delivers a powerful narrative about race, family, and identity. Desiree and Stella Vignes are identical twin sisters, yet they lead vastly different lives. Desiree lives with her Black teenage daughter in the same Louisiana town where she grew up. Stella, meanwhile, lives in California, where she secretly passes for white and keeps her upbringing hidden from her husband and daughter. Hailed by Good Morning America as a “stunning page-turner,” The Vanishing Half is a moving meditation on personal identity and how our individual choices affect our familial relationships.

Pachinko

By Min Jin Lee

Min Jin Lee’s sweeping historical novel follows four generations of a Korean family as they fight to survive in 20th-century Japan. The novel begins in Korea in the early 1900s, where teenaged Sunja falls in love with a wealthy stranger. When Sunja discovers she’s pregnant, she decides to leave behind all that she once knew and start a new life with a mild-mannered minister in Japan. The book then traces Sunja’s relatives across the years, exploring themes of devotion, determination, and sacrifice as they struggle to seize the present and wrest control of their future. A National Book Award finalist and New York Times bestseller, this is a captivating narrative that you’ll want to read and reread.

Commonwealth

By Ann Patchett

In this #1 New York Times bestselling novel, Ann Patchett explores the way a single act — in this case, a kiss — can alter the course of history and shape the lives of many. Bert Cousins shows up to Franny Keating’s christening party uninvited, and there he kisses Franny’s mother, setting off a chain reaction that forever alters the lives of both families. Years later, a now-grown Franny has an affair with a well-known author, Leon Posen, who uses Franny’s childhood experiences as the basis for his next book. With their private memories now made public, Franny and her family must confront their buried loss and guilt, all while recognizing the love that they have for one another and the deep connections they share.

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