Review: Drinking Closer to Home

Title: Drinking Closer to Home

Author: Jessica Anya Blau

Genre/Pages: Fiction/368

Publisher: Harper Perennial

Rating: 3.5 Bookmarks

Source: Pubisher via netGalley

Nat’s One-Sentence Synopsis:  Not a typical dysfunctional family novel, Jessica Anya Blau infuses Drinking Closer to Home with humor, drama, and great dialogue.

Many months ago, I received (and promptly read) Drinking Closer to Home. After finishing it, I remember thinking: Gee, maybe my family isn’t quite as idiosyncratic as I think we are!  Reading it again last week, I still felt the same wave of relief but also an understanding that every family has quirks; I’m happy have people who love me despite all of mine!

The Stein family lived an unorthodox life in Southern California, and the novel shifts back and forth from the 70s to present day, where matriarch, Louise, is hospitalized after suffering a heart attack.  Despite her protests, her husband of 30-plus years calls their three adult children home from the East Coast back to Santa Barbara.  The flashbacks provide the backstory.

I vacilated between liking and loathing Louise; my anger at her abandonment of motherhood–she “quit” one day when her son Emery was still toddling around, left to be raised by his pre-teen sisters–and then finding myself unwittingly laughing at her on the next page.  Louise was a free-spirit, to be sure!

Growing up in a home where bathing, housekeeping, and any type of discipline fall by the wayside, the kids are almost set up for lives fraught with issues…and they don’t disappoint.  But this novel is about more than just addictions, adultery, and secrets; Drinking Closer to Home depicts a family whose bond is only made stronger by their antics, struggles, and defeats.  They are loved and love each other despite the flaws.

Solid characterization, realistic dialogue, and hearty doses of humor elevated Drinking Closer to Home.  It is rich with discussion points and would make an ideal pick for a book club or adult family read.

Here are a few other perspectives on Drinking Closer to Home:

Julie over at Booking Mama

Teresa at Teresa’s Reading Corner

TLC Book Tours is also featuring this book!


  1. Sounds like a fun read – and I love the jacket. i don’t usually like memoirs with poor parenting (I struggled through THE GLASS CASTLE), but it sounds as if the humor in this one may make up for the bad mothering!

  2. Really looking forward to reading this one in the coming weeks! Family dramas always resonate with me — and, yes, make me glad for my own (relatively drama-free) family!

  3. I am looking forward to reading this sometime soon. And I’m glad to hear you liked it, makes me anticipate reading it all the more.

  4. Having just read The Glass Castle I’d have to say that this one sounds a lot like that one. I found myself cursing the parents on one page, only to laugh at their antics on the next.

    Just wondering, but why is the author’s name crossed off at the top?

  5. that’s how it was with this one–on one page i found the mom entertaining but on the next i wanted to shake her! as for the author’s name issue…yep, that would be me being a dork. i fixed it. thanks for the tip!

  6. I tend to shy away from fiction – particularly dark family drama, but a humorous take on poor parenting might be just my speed. Thanks for the review, Nat!

  7. What is it about dysfunctional families that fascinate us so much? This book sounds like one I would enjoy.

  8. i love reading books about dysfunctional families! it always reminds me of how fortunate i am to have the crazy family that i have. and who can say no to a reading books about people who stick up for each other through thick and thin despite all their differences and flaws. i’ll have to add this one to my wishlist!

  9. Thanks for the shout out. I was so pleasantly surprised by this book!

  10. A good dysfunctional family book can be fun. And as much as I think about quitting motherhood some days, I could never ever do it and I would be hard-pressed to like a character who did. Halfway through your review, I was thinking “Wait … this isn’t a memoir is it?” Glad to hear it wasn’t!

  11. The title alone is interesting and makes me want to pick it up – and something about a messed up family always seems to make me want to immediately dive right in to every character and figure out which ones I love and hate!

  12. I want to read this but for some reason I feel like I should save it for the summer. Maybe I enjoy reading about family dysfunction while sipping a margarita by the lake….or maybe that is just what I wish I was doing right now. Either way, I’m adding this to my list.

  13. Ah family, there is really nothing quite like it. We don’t pick our families but there is something so essential about them that we end up loving them unconditionally. It’s a truly magical thing. And I love reading about family dynamics especially when they are at play in slightly dysfunctional families like my own. We are crazy and it would seem at times like we absolutely loathe each other, but we stay together and when it really matters, we support each other. Thanks for the suggestion. I might suggest it as a book club pick for my tentative residence hall book club.

  14. I’ll be reading this one soon, so I was glad to see that you liked it!

  15. I’m about half way through ‘Drinking Closer to Home’ and I love it! Interesting that most of the comments on this site are about the dysfunctional family, but they are really loving and actually seem fairly functional – in their own way. They have their own craziness, but what family doesn’t? I love their flaws. I love this family!

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