Book Review: The Family Hightower by Brian Francis Slattery


In 1968 two boys are born into a large family, both named for their grandfather, Peter Henry Hightower. One boy—Peter—grows up in Africa and ends up a journalist in Granada. The other—Petey—becomes a minor criminal, first in Cleveland and then in Kiev. In 1995, Petey runs afoul of his associates and disappears. But the criminals, bent on revenge, track down the wrong cousin, and the Peter in Granada finds himself on the run. He bounces from one family member to the next, piecing together his cousin’s involvement in international crime while learning the truth about his family’s complicated history. Along the way the original Peter Henry Hightower’s story is revealed, until it catches up with that of his children, revealing how Peter and Petey have been living in their grandfather’s shadow all along.

The novel takes a look at capitalism and organized crime in the 20th century, the legend of the self-made man, and what money can do to people. Like Jeffrey Eugenides’ Middlesex, The Family Hightower stretches across both generations and continents, bearing the weight of family secrets and the inevitable personal toll they take on loved ones despite our best intentions.

First I must note that the copy I read was an Advanced Uncorrected Proof that  I received last year at Book Con. I’m reading the books I received then before I attend this year’s Book Con at the end of the month.

Part one of the book was really thrilling and mysterious. I quickly found myself rooting for the good Peter Henry Hightower cousin.
Part two, did give great insight into the family history but it also slowed down the story for me. I had put the book down for more than a week before I picked it up again and powered through to finish. Which then made part three, that was back in the present day of part one, feel a bit anti-climatic. I thought there would be more of a suspenseful chase but the set up events made everything work out smoothly.  Still, the characters are well developed and evoke emotion from the reader. Like I said, I rooted for (the good) Peter, I even rooted for Sylvie, thought Petey was a naive, selfish, idiot, felt so bad for Madalina and her parents.
The writing style is very descriptive as the  author speaks directly to the reader.  The narration at times is more told then shown. Often the dialogue is not in quotes but just a reference in italics. Sometimes the sentence are rambling and go off on tangents, or skip between past, present and future. However, it all comes together and makes sense in the end.
There is a lot of well researched history; history of Cleveland, African nations, Ukraine and the Soviet Union, . One historic moment I especially liked was the Sugar Ray Robinson-Jimmy Doyle fight because of the way it symbolically tied in with the threat old PHH gets.
Overall it was a good historical fiction like story of a dysfunctional family and the disgusting life of organized crime.
3.5 out 5 Namesakes.

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