Book Review: Family of Origin



Family of Origin, by CJ Hauser

There are many good reasons for why you should read CJ’s Hauser’s latest novel Family of Origin. The book centers around a pair of estranged siblings, Elsa and Nolan Grey, as they investigate the mysterious death of their brilliant scientist father, Ian. Prior to his death, Ian Grey had cut ties with his family and fallen into disgrace through his association with the Reversalists, a group of hack scientists who live isolated on the island and conduct research on backwards evolution. Elsa and Nolan must step out of their ordinary lives and immerse themselves in this bizarre island community, digging up their own complicated history in the process. It’s a great book about millenials, nature, science, family and impending doom.

In case you are unaware, Hauser is an Assistant Professor of English Literature and Creative Writing at Colgate. She is a dedicated and passionate storyteller and it really comes through in her writing. The prose of this latest work is sharp and concise, thought the images themselves are often poetic and seeped in significance. The picture of a certain inflatable tiger comes to mind as I write this… But for all it’s potent imagery, Family of Origin is both funny and very gripping. It’s a page-turner capable of addressing real and pressing issues.

What really makes the story irresistible for me is the uneasy, highly concerning dynamic between Elsa and Nolan (anyone who reads the book will pick up this on fairly quickly). I found the strong voices of these protagonists incredibly compelling—and the potential for incest adds a certain energy and urgency to questions surrounding evolution, too. The novel is as much a reflection on a deteriorating world as it is a picture of an impossibly complicated relationship, a bond between two people that combines too many conflicting roles once and must either resolve itself or implode.

I recommend you read this book if you’re tired of worrying about what the world will become and feel like laughing in the face of the apocalypse. Read this if you enjoy strong characters who are at once lovable and frustrating, who have a complicated relationship that it takes a couple hundred pages to comprehend. Read this book if going on scenic vacation to an island overrun by mad scientists sounds like a good idea to you (and it should).