“The Children’s Crusade” Is a Multi-Narrated, Honest Depiction of Family
Ann Packer’s engrossing novel The Children’s Crusade follows one California family through the decades as they deal with the ups and downs of life.
In 1954, Bill Blair finds a wooded area in what will eventually become Silicon Valley and purchases the land in the hopes of creating a rustic homestead. Unfortunately, life is nothing like his romantic dreams because his wife Penny is mercurial and chafes at being a housewife, so art is her only solace. The Blair family is dysfunctional, and 30 years later, they are thrown into turmoil when the youngest of Penny and Bill’s children returns home
The story of the turbulent California family is narrated in turns by Robert, who has walked in his father’s footsteps to become a doctor; Rebecca, the psychiatrist; Ryan, who works as a school teacher; and finally, the so-called “black sheep,” James. While some readers might find the alternating narratives confusing, their individual stories weave together to create one larger voice as each speaks their turn about the family’s secrets and their part in it.
Anyone who has grown up in a dysfunctional family will become teary-eyed as they read about how the four children instinctively sensed that Penny was a distant mother. Their efforts to come up with an activity that would bestow upon them warm maternal love is the true crux of the novel. It’s about watching children grow into adults and realizing their true potential. If you’re looking for a book about the binds of the family unit, The Children’s Crusade is devastatingly honest.