Dysfunctional family stories are nothing new, so for one to stand out, it has to be pretty damn good. Not surprisingly, Hannah Pittard was up to the task.
I read this after reading and loving Listen to Me, and I’m struck by how different it is — it’s funnier, it’s lighter, the plot is more conventional — and yet it still feels very Hannah Pittard. Which is to say, her insights and emotional honesty resonated with me.
Kate Pulaski, the flawed first-person narrator of Reunion, is perhaps one of my favorite protagonists in recent memory. She’s a pathological liar. A cheater. She’s emotionally stunted. She’s financially irresponsible. She even just wet the bed at the age of 34. And yet, she’s so witty and self-aware and brutally candid that I couldn’t help but love her — and it’s not always easy to make a flawed character likable.
Kate’s on the brink of breaking up with her husband when her estranged father commits suicide and she reluctantly flies home to Atlanta for his funeral. The bulk of the novel is Kate dealing with her initial grief alongside her two beloved siblings and her four (yes four) former stepmothers — one of whom is her age.
But Reunion is never exhausting or maudlin in spite of its sad premise. It’s relentlessly funny and amusing, much like a Jonathan Tropper novel or even Garden State minus the mawkishness and the manic pixie dream girl. The feeling that the plot has already been done before is the only thing that knocks this down half a star for me, however the characters are still distinct.
Hannah Pittard is one of those writers who just works for me. When you find one like that, it’s a real treat. I can’t wait to read more of her books.