Publisher's Note:  

In this incandescent novel, a family’s superpowers bestow not instant salvation but the miracle of accepting who they are.

“Okay, tell me which you want,” Alek asks his cousin at the outset of What the Family Needed. “To be able to fly or to be invisible.” And soon Giordana, a teenager suffering the bitter fallout of her parents’ divorce, finds that she can, at will, become as invisible as she feels. Later, Alek’s mother, newly adrift in the disturbing awareness that all is not well with her younger son, can suddenly swim with Olympic endurance. Over three decades, in fact, each member of this gorgeously imagined extended family discovers, at a moment of crisis, that he or she possesses a supernatural power.

But instead of crimes to fight and villains to vanquish, they confront inner demons, and their extraordinary abilities prove not to be magic weapons so much as expressions of their fears and longings as they struggle to come to terms with who they are and what fate deals them. As the years pass, their lives intersect and overlap in surprising and poignant ways, and they discover that the real magic lies not in their superpowers but in the very human and miraculous way they are able to accept, protect, and love one another.

What the Family Needed: A Novel

by Steven Amsterdam

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Overall Review:  

What The Family Needed was very interesting indeed. I have a hard time even describing it, but I will give it a shot. Here goes...


A family that seems quite typical undergoes several personal crises over the course of many years. Though these instances change them (sometimes for the better, sometimes the worse), they find that they are able to weather these storms through a magical inner strength that they didn't know they had. How I wish I had a super power I could call on when I needed to get through a difficult situation! However, this is just a brief summary of this book. If you are intrigued and want to know the full story (you know you do!), then I would suggest you read this book as soon as possible. It's funny and serious in all of the best ways.


What the Family Needed reminded me of a mix of some of my favorite authors all rolled into one. The magical aspect of this book (some of the characters seem to have a sort of superpower) reminded me of Aimee Bender's style of writing. Sarah Addison Allen, another favorite of mine, also writes books that contain smidgens of magic throughout. So, if you like this book, I would recommend trying those authors also.

Content Analysis:  

Profanity/Language:  4 religious exclamations; 6 mild obscenities; 2 derogatory names; 3 scatological words; 2 anatomical terms; 1 offensive hand gesture; 1 F-Word derivative.


Violence/Gore:  A character is mentioned to have died.


Sex/Nudity:  Minors kiss; adults kiss; porn is mentioned with no detail; one brief sex scene with minors is mentioned with no explicit detail; nudity with sexual innuendo is briefly described; "screwing" is referred to.

Mature Subject Matter:  

Death, cancer, personal crises.

Alcohol / Drug Use:  

Adults drink; drug use is mentioned; minors drink; minors smoke; drug use is suspected of a teen; a man is an alcoholic.

Reviewed By Lydia
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