Set over the course of a single weekend, with alternating narration among the five Tabors, this novel reckons with the nature of the stories we tell ourselves and our family and the price we pay for second chances.
For the most part, the narrative is propelled by interior thoughts instead of dialogue. This is a double-edged sword—while it gives us profound insight into the characters’ inner lives, it also staves off tension and drama. At times, the novel feels like five disconnected character studies rather than a cohesive family story. Further, some plot developments require a major suspension of disbelief, especially Harry’s sudden memory retrieval. But the prose is arresting, and there are beautiful moments. The writing has a strong cadence to it, so much so that I almost felt as if the story did not do justice to Wolas’s elegant turns of phase, which are cerebral and finely tuned. For the most part, she engages readers with sophisticated, gracefully earnest prose rather than dialogue, which is no easy feat in a family drama ... While much of the novel is pitch-perfect, the climax does leave a little to be desired. Nonetheless, The Family Tabor is a supple and engrossing read—highly recommended for people who love an intricate family drama.
Wolas illuminates the rich, complex histories of the older Tabor generations, when they were Tabornikovs, and the sense of loyalty to one’s family history is so vivid in the novel it is practically its own character. Unfortunately, it also takes up a lot of space in an already long novel ... The Family Tabor suffers from one jarring flaw: Harry has forgotten for 30 years how he made his fortune. He confessed to his wife, who’s a shrink, at the time, and she made him promise to give the money back. How has the subject not come up since? (Also, they’ve been having fabulous sex for 44 years? I’d like a hallucinatory cantor to come into my life and tell me how that works.) More intriguing is the back-and-forth Harry has with himself over the morality of what he has done. How to weigh his crimes (insider trading, betrayal) against his good deeds (resettling hundreds of refugee families who would have suffered and perhaps died in their own countries)? These are among the richest sections of the book, and there are not enough of them. Instead, we get too much about Phoebe and why she’s single.
The Family Tabor by Cherise Wolas is a provocative, gorgeously rendered novel that reckons with the nature of the stories we tell ourselves and our family and the price we pay for second chances ... While the novel’s ending is not what one would call happily-ever-after, the revelations felt somewhat superficial and lightweight. All of the stories indeed come full circle, but the intensity doesn’t quite match the enigmatic air of the novel. Deep hints, thoughts of doubt and shame, and a peek into so many characters’ minds made the novel feel like it was going to be so much more. In the end, The Family Tabor is simply the story of a family and a life-changing weekend. Had the promise of something greater not been underneath it all, the reader would have gladly gotten to know the Tabors, shared in their grief, and been happy when they find their purposes in life.