Every once in a blue moon, I read a book and think, "I really wish that I had written this myself". Jess Riley's novel, All the Lonely People, falls right into that category.
Riley's novel centers around Jaime and Erik, a middle-aged, childless couple who are struggling with their definition of family. The novel starts slightly over a year after Jaime's mother has died and Jaime is left fighting with her distant and dysfunction siblings. Her husband, Erik, is an only child, whose only relative is his elderly father who lives in an nursing home and suffers from Alzheimer's.
Christmas is approaching and Jaime decides to advertise on Craigslist for a new family. It turns out that there are plenty of isolated people in need of new relatives and willing to take a chance on a stranger.
Riley is just a fantastic writer. The sense of humor that she infuses into her characters and their situations is razor sharp, a bit wicked and often completely hilarious. However, what I love most about her writing, is that she balances the humor with a sensitivity towards painful subjects (grieving over a loved one, family resentment, personal heartache) and creates a story that is truly touching.
On many levels, I found this book to be affecting and ridiculously relatable. I rarely cry when reading a book, but this one got to me. It feels real, because not everything was neatly resolved and although most of the characters were endearing, they all had a plethora of flaws.
The theme of family and what constitutes a family is of great interest to me. Does blood relation really matter? Is a childless couple just as valid of a family as those with children? What happens when you are left without family or left with a family whose actions are unacceptable? Riley doesn't give broad answers to these social questions. Each of her characters struggles with their own ideas and ultimately the reader is left to draw their own conclusions. This book gets personal.
All The Lonely People is so loaded with discussion topics that it would be an excellent choice for a book group!
This was my first book by Riley and I can't wait to read her others. I obviously really loved this book and highly recommend it!