Publisher's Note:  

From the New York Times bestselling, award-winning author of The Dive From Clausen’s Pier, a sweeping, masterful new novel that explores the secrets and desires, the remnant wounds and saving graces of one California family, over the course of five decades.

Bill Blair finds the land by accident, three wooded acres in a rustic community south of San Francisco. The year is 1954, long before anyone will call this area Silicon Valley. Struck by a vision of the family he has yet to create, Bill buys the property on a whim. In Penny Greenway he finds a suitable wife, a woman whose yearning attitude toward life seems compelling and answerable, and they marry and have four children. Yet Penny is a mercurial housewife, at a time when women chafed at the conventions imposed on them. She finds salvation in art, but the cost is high.

Thirty years later, the three oldest Blair children, adults now and still living near the family home, are disrupted by the return of the youngest, whose sudden presence and all-too-familiar troubles force a reckoning with who they are, separately and together, and set off a struggle over the family’s future. One by one, the siblings take turns telling the story—Robert, a doctor like their father; Rebecca, a psychiatrist; Ryan, a schoolteacher; and James, the malcontent, the problem child, the only one who hasn’t settled down—their narratives interwoven with portraits of the family at crucial points in their history.

Reviewers have praised Ann Packer’s “brilliant ear for character” (The New York Times Book Review), her “naturalist’s vigilance for detail, so that her characters seem observed rather than invented” (The New Yorker), and the “utterly lifelike quality of her book’s everyday detail” (The New York Times). Her talents are on dazzling display in The Children’s Crusade, an extraordinary study in character, a rare and wise examination of the legacy of early life on adult children attempting to create successful families and identities of their own. This is Ann Packer’s most deeply affecting book yet.

This book was sent to Compass Book Ratings for review by Scribner

The Children's Crusade

by Ann Packer

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Overall Review:  

The Children's Crusade, by New York Times bestselling author Ann Packer, follows the dysfunctional Blair family. Their story, spread over fifty years, is intriguing and well-written, yet solemn and melancholy. As the four Blair children try to navigate growing up, their mother slowly withdraws from their lives, just when they need her most. The children each deal with this maternal deprivation in different ways and Packer switches narrators frequently to give readers different sides of the story. The Children's Crusade is a non-linear narrative and the constant time jumps were extremely disorienting. I often had to flip back a few pages to remember and/or figure out who was speaking. While The Children's Crusade has some beautiful passages, the book as a whole is depressing and its subject matter too heavy-handed for the casual reader.  

Review of Advance Review Copy

Content Analysis:  

Profanity/Language: 17 religious exclamations; 3 mild obscenities; 2 derogatory names; 11 scatological words; 6 anatomical terms; 1 offensive hand gesture; 32 f-word derivatives.

Violence/Gore: A few scenes, several pages in length, about reports of violence involving The Jonestown Massacre and Harvey Milk assassination; a few brief scenes of violence involving fistfights.

Sex/Nudity:  Several incidents of kissing; non-sexual depictions of nudity involving sitting in poison oak and a comment about breast size; several sexual references and reported incidents of sexual activity; mention of a character looking at anatomy charts as pornography; several incidents of touching areas normally covered by a bathing suit, including female genitalia during childbirth; a brief scene of nudity with sexual innuendo; multiple brief scenes of sexual activity between adults without explicit detail; several brief scenes of sexual activity between minors without explicit detail.  

Mature Subject Matter:  

Death of family member, adultery, shoplifting, a minor running away from home, smoking and drinking, underage drinking and drug use, sexual activity between minors, mention of homosexual political figures. 

Alcohol / Drug Use:  

Characters frequently smoke and drink; underage drinking at a party; underage drug use in a scene lasting several pages.

Reviewed By Rachel
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