A quick and compelling read, Did You Ever Have a Family is a well-rendered story of tragedy and family. Told from alternating perspectives, this novel is an easy read and does not grow stale. Perhaps the voices of the individual characters lack some originality—the pot smoking kid sounds a bit like the fifty-year-old Connecticut woman who is much like the family man from the south—but the various viewpoints lend credibility to the story itself. This is a quiet and moody novel, but there is enough story to propel the reader quite effortlessly to the conclusion.
My only real complaint is that the plot may be a little heavy-handed. At times it falls into after-school special material. Messages such as “Don't judge a book by its cover” and “Be careful what you wish for” are delivered so noisily that the book loses its otherwise subtle quality. From the novel's onset, it is too clear who is misjudged and who is the lunchroom bully and this detracts from any surprises the author may have wished to convey.
As I make my way through those books shortlisted for the 2015 Man Booker Prize, I must say I have been a little disappointed with the finalists this year. That said, I think Did You Ever Have a Family had as much right (even more) to be shortlisted as did the other contenders. Hopefully, it'll find better results with its National Book Award nomination.