When twenty-nine-year-old Sunday Brennan wakes up in a Los Angeles hospital, bruised and battered after a drunk driving accident she caused, she swallows her pride and goes home to her family in New York. But it’s not easy. She deserted them all―and her high school sweetheart―five years before with little explanation, and they've got questions.
... confident, polished ... The book derives most of its narrative tension from the omissions and commissions of the Brennan family, but the largest revelation in We Are the Brennans — and the secret at its core — is the way it subverts readerly expectations about the sort of book it is ... Though her novel is obviously descended from earlier stories about large Irish American families struggling to do the right thing, Lange seems willing to break this highly specific genre’s traditional promise: that these families do, in their own fumbling way, eventually find their way toward morality. Instead, We Are the Brennans leaves its main characters in an interesting state of limbo at its conclusion: They’re only half-redeemed, and some have waited until the book’s finale to commit their final acts of selfishness or sin ... what’s more interesting about the book is the way it is unafraid to examine how the Brennans — nominally the heroes of the book — have done harm in the community around them ... goes on this way, becoming increasingly complex, and casting off traditional notions about morality as it has typically been portrayed in works of its kind. But it is the finale that truly breaks rank with its predecessors. Lange, as it turns out, is not interested in tidy or comfortable lessons learned, or redemption for the Irish American family at the center of her novel. When we leave the Brennans, they are perhaps more flawed than they were at the start. But that, to my mind, is what makes them feel human, and what makes the book feel real.
Each chapter follows a family member, beginning with a repeated line of dialogue from the previous chapter, an intriguing structure that links the characters and offers a wider perspective while also propelling the reader along ... well plotted, offering plenty of action, but it shines brightest in depicting family relationships, love mixed with resentment and guilt, and in character development. The Brennan siblings are believably flawed, their troubles multifaceted. The family house and Denny and Kale’s bar are almost characters, too, well depicted throughout ... is firmly in the vein of Mary Beth Keane’s Ask Again, Yes and J. Courtney Sullivan’s Saints for All Occasions, though not as literary in its prose style. It’s a page-turner in the best way, slowly doling out the family’s life-altering secrets. We root for the Brennans the whole way through, waiting for them to face hard truths about one another and, we hope, to move forward together.