Kevin Wilson's Nothing to See Here is certainly popular, and it's not hard to see why: quirky characters, a razor wit, and a lot of heart. The story is that Lillian, a former scholarship student at a boarding school for the privileged, is called upon by her best friend, Madison, also a former student there. Madison has gone from wealth to wealth, married to a hopeful for Secretary of State. She just needs someone to watch her stepchildren for the summer. And then it gets interesting. If you liked Nothing to See Here, I have more off-beat books dealing with found families.
Ten Thousand Saints by Eleanor Henderson takes place in the Eighties New York amongst the straightedge punk scene and the scourges of cocaine and AIDS. Two kids from Vermont come to the big city to start over, but are hampered by their ties to family and the past. This may sound very cliched, but Henderson does not paint by the numbers and utilizes a distinct moral vision.
Half-sisters Iris and Eva create a family of sorts in mid-century America, along with their father and plenty of other unusual people in Lucky Us by Amy Bloom. The centerpiece is a road trip east from Hollywood where performer Iris has been blacklisted. Eva tries to hold the menage together through the war on the way to a satisfying ending. The takeaway: redemption and reinvention both require a gamble.
Ellis is off to boarding school in the East from Arizona in Mark Jude Poirier's Goats. Coming from a very New Age, doper environment, Ellis finds that he excels at prep school and things go well until he returns to his pothead father figure for a last trek through the desert. Funny and poignant at the same time, this is another book that turns clichés on their heads.
Of course, there's the novel of the families we make that is an acknowledged classic: John Irving's The Cider House Rules. Also a novel of coming home again, it follows Homer Wells, orphan and the heir-apparent to an obstetrician and orphanage director. Homer leaves to work in the apple business, but realizes that life is more complex and in need of compassion than he initially believed. Drawing on Dickens in certain respects, this is an early triumph of an acclaimed author.
Have more stories of found families? Tell us about them in the comments.