The Magazine

Family Matters

Late parents, random children, and a greedy ACLU.

Oct 1, 2007, Vol. 13, No. 03 • By EDITH ALSTON
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A good deal funnier, A Perfectly Good Family never attempts that much. But with so much action concentrated at the level of a food fight, this reader longed after awhile to trade in some of the thoughtful observation for a more satirical edge. I am reminded of certain recent critiques of designer dogs. The puggle is my favorite, which is every bit as cute as the name suggests, but owners finding themselves leashed to this mix of beagle and pug can soon find its physical charms outweighed by the hybrid quandaries of an animal with intense instinct for tracking and no sense, ever, of where it is.

Harper Perennial could also have paid better attention to its cover design for the American edition, featuring a photograph of a house with a triangular pediment and a second-floor balcony behind tall white columns. In the first line of the book, even the taxi driver knows that he's delivering Corlis to a house that looks like the home of Norman Bates.

Edith Alston is a writer and editor in New York.