In my newest novel, What’s Left, the common image of a nuclear family is punctured when her father vanishes in an avalanche halfway around the globe when she’s 11. Daddy’s no longer present in the family picture. Only her mother, two older brothers, and Cassia herself. (Plus her aunts, uncles, and close cousins, who completely alter the picture.)

Her obsession to rediscover him brings her face to face with much more than her loss.

As she reports in an earlier version:

At least when I’ve asked him – repeatedly – about Baba, all I get is, Your dad was a saint. Period.

I wish I could say the same for Theos Barney. Yet, for much of our history …


By this point in my new novel, the plot has definitely thickened. As I ask myself just what makes a family, I’m beginning to think it revolves around the mother, except in this case Manoula is hardly a typical mother hen for the role. And suppose she’d been the one to vanish, rather than Cassia’s father? How would we define the family then? If it’s all about caring, what about all the other people we might “adopt” as family?

Do your grandparents live within a day’s drive of your home? How many aunts and uncles are also that close? How often do you see them? Who else would you consider as active family?


Ruby’s Diner in Colorado Springs prior to being converted to 3 Margaritas at First & Main Town Center. By David Shankbone via Wikimedia Commons.

In my novel, the family restaurant could have been like this.

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