““A WOMAN WALKS into the sea.”
So begins Jeanne McCulloch’s shimmering gem of a memoir, All Happy Families, which elegantly recounts the unraveling of three unions: her first marriage, that of her parents, and that of her first in-laws. The memoir also tells the story of a summer house in East Hampton, New York, where all three marriages intersected, and which has itself been dismantled.
McCulloch has had a long and storied career in publishing, first as a managing editor at the Paris Review, then at Tin House, where she was a senior editor and the founding editorial director of Tin House Books, and currently as co-founding director of the Todos Santos Writers Workshop. I have known McCulloch personally since we were both in college, and she was my editor for an interview I conducted for the Paris Review. Although she has written many articles and essays over the years, this is her first book. It was worth waiting for. I don’t imagine McCulloch could have told this story as completely, or as well, until now.” — Full review of All Happy Families in Los Angeles Review of Books
"A perfect storm of plans gone awry, McCulloch’s beachfront scene opens the way to a deep dive into family history, marriage, generational dissonance, social status and its loss, the blame game, and the flimsy life belt of ritual. Her title alludes to Tolstoy’s famous line in Anna Karenina: “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” The families McCulloch writes about—she moves from her own to a dissection of Dean’s—strive hard, mainly through the Herculean efforts of the mothers, to create cohesion, identity, all appearance of harmony. Inevitably, it seems, these efforts are, if not doomed, at least fractured." — Full review of All Happy Families in Vogue
"Partly a breezy scene piece, partly a meditation on the familial forces that make us who we are, All Happy Families is a distinct and evocative work." — "13 Books to Thrill, Entertain, and Sustain You This Summer" in Vogue
"McCulloch provides an honest and sensitive portrayal of family dysfunction as well as an evocation of a dying world of old-money wealth and privilege. A poignantly intimate memoir.” — Kirkus Reviews
“An eminently enjoyable take on the infinite tangles and triumphs of family.” —Booklist
"In this elegant, searching memoir, Jeanne McCullouch peels back the glittering layers of privilege that comprise the surface of her family, and exposes the soft, complicated, tender core beneath. This is a beautiful book about love, loss, and the ravages of time. I adored it.” — Dani Shapiro, bestselling author of Hourglass, Still Writing, Devotion, and Slow Motion
“McCulloch is as wise as she is funny, keen both to the ridiculous excesses of the moneyed class and to the evanescence of commercial beauty, while attentive to the intricate pains of alcoholism and love’s failures that afflict her characters, amidst the splendor.” — Mona Simpson, author of Casebook and My Hollywood
“All Happy Families is a wry and poignant account of a doomed wedding, a house ‘on a perilous dune’ in the Hamptons, and a world of privilege at its vanishing point. Jeanne McCulloch’s take on the American aristocracy is informed by her sharp eye for any sign of pretentiousness and her uncanny ability to render the despair at the heart of every happy family. Think of her as an Edith Wharton for the twenty-first century: we need her wisdom now more than ever.” — Christopher Merrill, author of Self-Portrait with Dogwood
“McCulloch’s droll, deft, and tenderhearted portrait of the steely matriarchal bonds that endure alcoholism and genteel masculine decay is a delightful addition to the literature of WASP manners. I loved it.” — John Seabrook, New Yorker staff writer and the author of The Song Machine
The paperback of All Happy Families will be out on June 4, 2019! Click here to pre-order the book.
"This may be Jeanne McCulloch’s first time at BookExpo as an author, but she’s been a familiar presence since her days as managing editor of the Paris Review, senior editor of Tin House magazine, and founding editorial director of Tin House Books." — Publisher's Weekly
A new interview is up on the podcast “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books” with Zibby Owens.