Family Snapshots by Bridget McGowan

four stars

snapshotsIn many ways, Family Snapshots by Bridget McGowan is a novel where traditional family values meet the modern stresses of growing up. Set in a small town in Wales, the story follows the youngest son of the proud Keating household. Even at four years of age, Nicholas Keating wants nothing more than to be a musician. At once precocious and naive, he quickly shows promise in piano, voice, and his beloved violin. Getting from four to twenty-four with his musical dream intact is not an easy feat, yet Nicholas faces it all with tempered inquisitiveness, reason, and a healthy dose of wit. An unusual life suits an unusual boy, and the path of a musician tests Nicholas’s strength of mind. At the core, the bonds of family are always there as support, even when life does not go as planned.

Author Bridget McGowan weaves a picture of a boy’s coming of age structured around music. Though his actions have simple motives, Nicholas is a complex and ever-evolving character. Having two older sisters and a famous musician for a grandfather meant Nicholas had a lot to look up to, but also a lot of help growing up. On top of that, the father’s even-handedness is reminiscent of other great literary dads such as Atticus from To Kill A Mockingbird. With family on his side, Nicholas tackles difficult life lessons in sexuality and more. Using language natural to the Welsh families along with some phrases in Welsh, the writing lulls you into its comfortable pace. Still, while the changing obstacles of the everyday keep things interesting, the novel as a whole lacks a central conflict. As a result, the ending feels a little abrupt and lacks satisfaction. Nevertheless, Family Snapshots is an alluring and timeless story of the work it takes to follow your dreams.

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