The Blumenthals are hosting a wedding in a few short days at their old family home in upstate New York. The bride-to-be is camping out in the yard, more relatives are arriving by the day, Great-Aunt Glad is wandering mentally between past and present, and the simmering protest among long-standing town residents to the increasing presence of an Orthodox Jewish community threatens to divide the Blumenthals into opposing factions
... 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.