Can you lose your family simply by wishing for a new one? And how do you get them back? These are the questions John Boggle must answer in a middle grade fantasy novel by Gene Twaronite. The Family That Wasn’t (published by IUniverse in 2010) is “a humorous fable of how our families live inside us” that will appeal to both teens and adults.
The book is narrated by a 13-year old writer named John Boggle. Actually, the name Boggle is just an acronym he invents to help him remember his ridiculously long hyphenated name, courtesy of his African-Lithuanian-Irish-Apache-Italian-Chinese-Mexican heritage. He finds his family so impossibly crazy that he cannot stand to live with them another moment. So he invents a new and perfect family, which is so convincing that he suddenly finds himself living inside this imaginary world.
But, in their ever constant quest for perfection, the idealized characters that John has created prove to be just as out of control as his old family. Even worse, he now finds himself unable to write. He sees his too perfect image in the mirror and begins to wonder if it is all some kind of absurd mistake. Only trouble is, now he can’t remember who he really is. He only knows that it is all wrong and that he must leave this perfect family at once. His sole clue is his name, John Boggle, which he discovers on the first page of his crumbling manuscript in the ruins of the old house where he once lived.
To find his true family he embarks on a cross country quest, looking for signs. Aided by the kindness of strangers who provide him with helpful advice and strange gifts that nourish him along the way, John eventually encounters other characters who have also lost touch with their families: Granny Spud, Patricia Palomar, Tina Trashmore, Doctor Zither, Soul Lady, and Lot. O. Jobs, not to mention the evil Uncle Vinnie. Though readers will undoubtedly recognize these characters as extensions of John’s lost family, neither John nor the others know their true identity. They know only that they must follow John and his strange story to its conclusion. And, while alone in a dark tunnel, John also comes face to face with the suppressed memory of sexual abuse inflicted on him by his fake Uncle Vinnie.
Though written with dark humor, The Family That Wasn’t conveys both the strength and fragility of our families and how easily they can be lost. It also poses questions about the power of words and the imagination and the very nature of reality.
Gene Twaronite’s fiction has been published by Avatar Review, Forge, Highlights for Children, Weekly Reader, Heinemann, and Fast Forward Press. He has also published many humorous essays on gardening and nature, some of which have appeared in local newspapers. He is a published member of the Society of Children’s Book Authors and Illustrators, and Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. Though he now lives in Chino Valley, AZ, Gene has also resided in Providence, RI, where much of the book takes place. This is his first novel. He is currently working on a sequel.
Further information about the book can be obtained by visiting the author’s Web site at: www.thefamilythatwasnt.com. A former junior high school teacher and Instructional Specialist with the University of Arizona, Gene is a dynamic public speaker and is available for talks on his book or about writing in general. He welcomes all inquiries and comments, inviting readers to e-mail him directly at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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