Book Review – Family Game Night and Other Catastrophes by Mary Lambert

Family Game NightBy Awnali Mills

I am weirdly fascinated by the TV show Hoarders.  Until this show came out, I was unaware of the mental illness that causes people to hang onto everything, turning their homes into garbage dumps.  I can’t even imagine what it’s like to live with that.  But Annabelle, her older brother Chad, and her younger sister Leslie are living with it.  Their mother is a hoarder.

Things reach a tipping point when a stack of newspapers collapses on Leslie, and then their father discovers a file of Leslie’s newspaper clippings about hoarders who have died in their hoards.  After a terrific fight, he deserts the family and heads to England, ordering her mother to clean everything up before he returns, or they’re getting a divorce.

In desperation, Leslie calls in their Grandma Nora, who promptly moves into Annabelle’s room, because it’s the only clean room in the house.  Annabelle, having lost her only sanctuary, is set adrift.  She feels like she can only save herself, not Leslie who is pleading for her help, and not Mom, who refuses to change.  She can’t tell the truth to any of her friends, and her family is falling apart.  Will the kids end up in foster care if Annabelle’s mom can’t get her act together?

Ms. Lambert does an excellent job of taking us inside the heart of a girl who’s trying to assert some control over her world when her world is out of control.  Many times, the adults in life don’t have it together, and can’t provide the wisdom and stability that kids need.  Annabelle is horrified when her grandmother compares her to her mother, but Ms. Lambert shows us through the story that they are alike—both trying to control their worlds in the only way they know how.  She also shows us that sometimes you have to save yourself, but sometimes you have to do the hard thing and be there for other people.

We rarely know what’s going on in other people’s homes, but I would recommend this book for anyone who is facing instability in a parental relationship, or kids who are frustrated by their inability to control their families (and wouldn’t we all love to be able to control our families?).  Recommended for grades 4-6.

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