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A Family Reunion
by Brenda Jackson
(Griffin Trade, $13.95, PG-13) ISBN 0-312-31508-2
****
A lot has happened in the fifteen years since the last Bennett family reunion. Not all of it has been good. Eighty-nine year-old patriarch Ethan Allen Bennett has taken a long, hard look at his family and does not like what he sees. There has been an erosion of the core Bennett family values that have sustained them for generations. Something has to be done so Ethan summons the entire family to Macon, Georgia, for a family reunion.

A Family Reunion is Brenda Jackson’s first mainstream for St. Martin’s Press. Jackson tells the Bennett family story by focusing on the clan’s 30-something generation. Alexia, Octavia, Michael and Rae Jean were inseparable as children and the reunion is a chance for them all to get together for the first time since their grandmother’s funeral a decade earlier.

Michael, a commercial airline pilot, is the widowed father of a teenage daughter who is beginning to get into mischief. He sees the reunion as a chance to connect his daughter with the rest of her family. Rae Jean is a successful physician who wants to come to the reunion to find out the truth about her father. Alexia is part of a famous singing group. The reunion will give her time and space to make several important decisions about her life and career. Octavia isn’t looking forward to the reunion, but her cousins convince her to come anyway. A single mother, with two children, Taye believes she has let the family down by not living up to its expectations for her. It is a constant source of conflict between Taye and her mother.

Cousins Brandy and Victor, Jr. round out the mix as the Bennetts and their inlaws, outlaws, exes and nexts converge in Macon for a weekend filled with family drama, secrets, fun and love. Despite the strained relationships between family members, the Bennetts close ranks when one of their own is threatened. And there is a major family conflict that jeopardizes the family from within.

Brenda Jackson has created a story of family that readers will be able to identify with. The characters are well-defined and Jackson adds subtle humor to the story. I have purposely not divulged a lot of the storyline. For those who are concerned, I will say that Brenda Jackson has not strayed from her roots. There are at least three romances in the novel.

A Family Reunion has been reissued by St. Martin’s in trade paperback format. The story has a CD that is available separately that includes “His Eye Is On the Sparrow” and “Family Reunion.”

A Family Reunion is Brenda Jackson’s first, and I think best mainstream. Brandy’s story is continued in Savvy Sisters. I recommend them both.

--Gwendolyn Osborne


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