... it’s an absolute delight... if anything about Strangers and Cousins sounds tepid or old-fashioned, know that Cohen has infused this story with the most pressing concerns of our era. The result is an unusually substantive comedy, a perfect summer novel: funny and tender but also provocative and wise ... Zoning, pollution, racism, anti-Semitism—these are heavy themes that could easily overwhelm Strangers and Cousins or, worse, look tritely exploited by it. But that’s the real artistry of Cohen’s work: her sensitive exploration of the whole range of our complicated, compromised lives. And she puts to rest the smug assumption that there’s anything minor or unambitious about a witty domestic novel ... Cohen’s ability to acknowledge the agony of that strife in the context of a modern, loving family makes this one of the most hopeful and insightful novels I’ve read in years.
Cheerful and lively, Strangers and Cousins is dense with themes, yet has a satisfying simplicity of setting ... wittily captured, though Cohen keeps the satire gentle ... As in a Shakespearean comedy, disparate relationships will find a way to be resolved, and familial love, at least, will prevail.
While [the novel's] approach could seem self-serving at times, the novel’s earnest tone buffers such a perception. Family history is 'a privilege' .... In...Cohen’s [novel], the very uncertainty of the past gives these legacies their power. Old stories acquire new meaning when their narrators change ... By piecing together the 'truth' of their forebears’ stories, these characters come to better understand themselves.
...[an] elegantly abbreviated family saga ... Cohen’s characters are familiar in their failings and lovable in their tender quirks. Her writing style and tone lend a lightweight grace to at-times heavy subject matter—a levity not flippant or callow but held aloft by a sense of time’s two-dimensional circularity and history’s Faulknerian indefatigability. Cohen’s gentle philosophizing reminds us that while the past may not even be past, and the future often feels dangerously obscure, the present—bountifully populated by both strangers and cousins—offers its own rewards, if we choose to embrace them.
Cohen perfectly captures the chaos of a big family event, with all the personalities and baggage that come with the territory, adeptly mixing humor and sentiment to create an intoxicatingly rich story that bursts off the page with life ... Fine summer reading.