Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Book Review: We Are the Brennans by Tracey Lange

Pages: 288
Genre: Adult Fiction
Pub. Date: August 3, 2021
Publisher: Celadon
Source: Personal Copy
My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars 

Goodreads says, "When twenty-nine-year-old Sunday Brennan wakes up in a Los Angeles hospital, bruised and battered after a drunk driving accident she caused, she swallows her pride and goes home to her family in New York. But it's not easy. She deserted them all—and her high school sweetheart—five years before with little explanation, and they've got questions.   Sunday is determined to rebuild her life back on the east coast, even if it does mean tiptoeing around resentful brothers and an ex-fiancé. The longer she stays, however, the more she realizes they need her just as much as she needs them. When a dangerous man from her past brings her family's pub business to the brink of financial ruin, the only way to protect them is to upend all their secrets—secrets that have damaged the family for generations and will threaten everything they know about their lives. In the aftermath, the Brennan family is forced to confront painful mistakes—and ultimately find a way forward, together."


Sunday Brennan left her home in New York years ago. She was running from her past along with her boisterous Irish Catholic family; she was determined to not face it and leave it behind.  The Brennan family are a town staple; they own the local pub, the patriarch is a well known contractor, and everyone knows the Brennan kids, especially former sports star, Denny. From the outside, it appears to the community that the Brennans have it all. A successful family business, a booming Irish pub, a loving family, and a beautiful home.  However, when you examine the family closer, things aren't as they appear.  Sunday, the only female Brennan offspring, never got over something from her past and ran to Los Angeles under the guise of a job opportunity. This took everyone by surprise, especially her longtime boyfriend-turned fiance, Kale.  Kale isn't just some boyfriend though. He grew up with the Brennans; he is practically a Brennan himself and even has a place at the dining room table.  He and Sunday had plans to marry one day and to this day, he doesn't understand why she up and left him without even so much as an explanation.  However, one fateful night, Sunday finds herself in a drunk driving accident in Los Angeles and her emergency contact is her older brother, Denny. After he comes out to help her, he convinces her to move back home for a bit. Once Sunday does, she she knows she has to face all the secrets she has been hiding for years and eventually face Kale, who still holds her heart.  We Are the Brennans by Tracey Lange is such a moving debut. I absolutely loved the characters and was completely invested in this family saga. It's one of my favorite books of the year!

Sunday is an interesting character in We Are the Brennans. Readers don't know what she is running from at first, but slowly Lange divulges information as to why she left so abruptly. While I don't always agree with her decisions, I could empathize with her.  Sunday needs people in her life who talk about their feelings, who can share their personal stories, and that's not what she will find at the Brennan household. The Brennans lack the skills to communicate effectively and they are all holding secrets. They come from a good place, but the lack of communication has caused some major trauma.  For example, Sunday is clearly in love with Kale and has been for years. So, why did she leave? Why didn't she explain to Kale why she left? And more importantly, which Brennan knows the truth surrounding Sunday's departure?

The other Brennans: Denny, Jackie, Shane, and Mick are fantastically done. Lange excels at character development. As I was reading We Are the Brennans, I felt like I was watching a movie unfold before me and I wasn't drawn to one character over another; somehow Lange was able to make each Brennan capture my heart. Mick is the patriarch and is a complex character. He knows that old age is robbing him of his memory and his ability to "get the job done." He wants very much to rule to roost, but it's Denny that truly runs the show and the family pub.  He keeps everyone in line, but the problem is, he is in over his head. His marriage is suffering, his plans for a new pub are going awry, not to mention he has serious money issues.  Then there's Jackie who is on probation, but a thoughtful and creative good guy, and the youngest, Shane, who is a handful as he is intellectually disabled. It's a lot for Denny to keep together.   Lastly, even though the Brennan matriarch, Maura, has been dead for years, she still plays an important role in the family and her presence hovers over the family, which is an interesting touch by Lange.

One of the driving forces in We Are the Brennans is Kale and Sunday's love story. I am an absolute sucker for a friends-to-something more romance, so I was completely caught up in their story. Lange provides readers  flashbacks that highlight important moments in their relationship and I found their love story so very compelling. All the while, I was wondering what the heck went wrong? Because Sunday is in Los Angeles avoiding her family, and Kale has clearly moved on. Cue my heart breaking!

We Are the Brennans also examines how secrets, shame, and guilt play out in a family.  I thought it was so well done.  Each Brennan holds a secret for a variety of reasons and some of the secrets will eventually come to the surface.  The best part about We Are the Brennans is the fact that I didn't care that none of the characters were perfect or made good decisions. I loved them anyway and I was rooting for them despite their downfalls. 

Needless to say, I thoroughly enjoyed We Are the Brennans. If you love a good family saga, you will enjoy this outstanding debut. So, have you read We Are the Brennans? If so, let me know your thoughts in the comments below. 


  1. I do love a good family drama that's full of secrets, so I'll have to check this one out!

    1. Definitely check it out! It was so good! Thanks for visiting, Angela!


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