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400 Reads: These books look at familial connections that define us through different lenses
Becky Cahill
Becky Cahill is a career educator and an avid reader. She reads extensively in her free time and tracks her favorites (and those that aren’t even close) on her blog at tobereadlist.home.blog. Becky is the host of ‘Read It or Leave It!’ a weekly reading podcast available on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

This article appears in the December issue of 400 Life.

By Becky Cahill, for 400 Life

Family is something we discuss all the time, but it can be hard to define. Do you need blood connection to be a family? What about biological family members you have never met?  There is no shortage of books that examine the importance of family. These books look at familial connections that define us through different lenses.   

I’ll Be Your Blue Sky

Marisa de los Santos’ 2018 publication, I’ll Be Your Blue Sky, follows the stories of two women living in different decades. Edith is a newlywed in the 1950s and Clare is a bride-to-be in modern day. 

Edith and her husband have just started a new family when tragedy strikes. She must figure out how to create a new existence and decide who she will let in. Clare was raised by a single mother, but was sustained by an extended support system; a group of people she would never give up. 

Edith and Clare meet for the first time as Clare is doubting her plans to marry and as Edith is nearing the end of a long illness. The connection that is formed changes Clare’s life and helps Edith create closure for her own. The connection has far reaching consequences as Clare learns to find herself through the secrets of the past. 

The novel takes us through the twists and turns of each woman’s life. At its core, the novel is about the choices these two women will make, but it also examines what it means to be family and how the perception of family can change over time.  

Inheritance

Dani Shapiro is a journalist and author who has explored her heritage and family in a series of memoirs. 

In her latest effort, Inheritance, the author discovers that the man that raised her was not her biological father. What follows is her journey to locate relatives she never knew and to process through reorganizing her idea of her family tree in her 50s.  

Shapiro takes us along as she searches for answers about her paternity and uncovers long hidden events of the past. She grapples with retaining her sense of self when so much of her identity is grounded in the family she has always known. There are many contingencies to consider and Shapiro uses her journalistic background to write clearly and honestly as she overcomes internal and external obstacles. 

The author has taken her own personal experience and created the Family Secrets podcast. Shapiro and a guest discuss hidden events from the past and how uncovering these change the future and the perception of the past. Shapiro’s personal story moves quickly, but it is underwritten by the question of biology versus nurturing as the role of the family. 


Becky Cahill is a career educator and an avid reader.  She reads extensively in her free time and tracks her favorites (and those that aren’t even close) on her blog at tobereadlist.home.blog. Becky is the host of ‘Read It or Leave It!’ a weekly reading podcast available on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.