All This Could Be Yours: Family life in all its dysfunctional glory

Book review: Jami Attenberg’s latest work features a damaged cast of characters more suited to a horror novel

Jami Attenberg has a terrific eye for family dynamics. Photograph:  Leonardo Cendamo/Getty Images

Jami Attenberg has a terrific eye for family dynamics. Photograph: Leonardo Cendamo/Getty Images

Why do we continue to love the people who have hurt us the most? Those who have broken their promises, walked away from their responsibilities and scarred us with their words or fists? These are some of the questions at the heart of Jami Attenberg’s fifth novel, All This Could Be Yours, a title which, by the end, feels more like a threat than an aspiration.

Attenberg has written about dysfunctional families before – one of her earlier works, The Middlesteins, is a fine study of how one falls apart when a father decides that he’s had enough of his wife and simply walks away. In this book she has created a cast of characters so cold that one comes away from it feeling they would be more suited for a horror novel than a dramatic one.

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