Book Review – ‘Beautiful, Complicated Family Vols 1 and 2’ by Rosey Lee

I purchased these books in ebook format through Amazon.

This dual-volume of ten short stories examines the family unit in all its glorious, difficult complexity. Rosey Lee steps beyond the traditional nuclear family unit to acknowledge the many other compositions people call ‘family’, and how those relationships are defined and redefined as we progress through life.

In Volume 1, we meet two long-time friends as they struggle to reconnect in light of one’s new role. Two granddaughters attempt to haul their grandmother back from mental decline. A pair of stories examine the fragile yet undeniable bond between mothers and their daughters. But the highlight of this first volume is a sharp contemporary take on the characters from Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With The Wind, told from Mamie’s perspective, that proves especially satisfying.

The pattern continues in Volume 2, with some characters making reappearances. Here we revisit the bond of friendship; and weave further around the concept of family as being something formed by blood ties, or a conscious construction. There are steps into the unconventional formats that can represent the contemporary family, as two characters getting along beautifully suddenly discover just what else they have in common in the touching final tale.

Within the kaleidoscope of the family, Rosey Lee explores a number of other topics including mental health, ageing, self-discovery, and how we adjust to change. Lee’s characters are believable and gentle, and she weaves beautifully between first person and third person to keep her storytelling fresh. In Volume 2, ‘The Friendship PIP’ is a clever departure from traditional form, and suggests Rosey has more to explore in the realm of experimental fiction. Her stories are tight, often focusing on a single moment or vignette, using conflict to drive the narrative forward. Internal struggles are used to great effect to create backstory with minimal fuss.

The Beautiful, Complicated Family collection is essentially about relationships. The way humans relate to each other, and search for a sense of belonging and identity, is difficult to separate in these tales from the idea of the family and how we position ourselves and each other within it. Rosey Lee shows us the humour, the tragedy, and the hope that spring from our efforts to connect. Anyone who has ever struggled with familial relationships, and working out where and how they fit, will find these stories extremely relatable. 

Beautiful, Complicated Family Vols 1 and 2 are available now through Rosey Lee Books.

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