Almost Family

A Novel

Fiction - Literary
296 Pages
Reviewed on 12/05/2023
Buy on Amazon

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    Book Review

Reviewed by Bryone Peters for Readers' Favorite

Sometimes, one finds peace and joy in the unlikeliest situations. Almost Family by Ann Bancroft is such a story. It is about a mother, Liz, who is not appreciated. Liz lives all her adult life in turmoil and guilt. When she is diagnosed with terminal cancer, she reluctantly joins a support group where she meets two amazing people, Rhonda and Dave, who show her unconditional love. She experiences life like never before and begins to see the world differently. Rhonda and Dave, also living with terminal cancer, have inner turmoil as well. At a time when she needed it the most, they provided wisdom, encouragement, and understanding. It allows her to finally break free from the darkness that held her soul captive for so long.

Almost Family by Ann Bancroft is most certainly a literary masterpiece. The sincerity in the conversations and the excellent flow of each scene from one to the next were brilliant. There was so much to be felt, learned, experienced, and savored in this narrative. I loved every single moment. It made me smile, laugh and cry. Toward the end, I could not hold back the flood of tears. I loved reading this book! It was sad, riveting, amusing at times, and inspirational. The dialogue is charismatic, realistic, and seamless with each character. Each character was beautifully, intelligently portrayed, and intensely believable. The book is a page-turner that was hard to put down. Almost Family is my new favorite book. I will highly recommend it.

Romuald Dzemo

Almost Family by Ann Bancroft is a remarkable exploration of the power of support groups, and a woman’s ability to find meaning in unexpected connections at the darkest moment of her life. Liz Millanova is broken in many ways: her daughter is estranged from her and her marriage is in tatters. Now, she suffers from stage four cancer. A support group is the last thing that Liz wants, but since it doesn't hurt, she gives it a try. The group meets at Nordstrom's employee training lounge. It is here that a relationship develops between Liz and two other patients. They decide it is time to enjoy life on their own terms so they leave the group and form what they call the Oakland Mets. Dave is gay and Rhonda has dark secrets of her own that she hides beneath the veneer of religious devotion. As these characters explore ways to enjoy life, Liz learns to let go, to let others in, and to mend her relationship with her daughter.

Bancroft is a wonderful storyteller whose ability to create engaging and lovely characters shines through this narrative. The Mercy’s Thriving Survivors is a place that readers will love to explore and the connection and banter between the snarky Liz and other members of the support group is hearty and enlivening. The author balances the grim subject matter with humor, which lightens the narrative and makes it utterly engaging. The juxtaposition of the absurd and the characters’ search for meaning in the last days of their lives is one of the strongest points of this narrative. I loved the motivation in these characters and how well it is conveyed. Their journey tells the reader one important lesson: It is never over until it is over. Ann Bancroft’s characters are believable and relatable and the author has the ability to put these characters into situations that are realistic. She skillfully explores their emotions, making them feel like people who live next door. Almost Family is a rollicking, humorous ride that had me rooting for the characters.

Asher Syed

In Almost Family by Ann Bancroft, Liz Millanova, diagnosed with advanced breast cancer, reluctantly joins a support group but finds solace among fellow patients. Despite her initial hesitation, she gradually embraces the group's camaraderie, bonding with Dave and Rhonda. Themes of faith and forgiveness emerge, and Liz reassesses her priorities, leaving her job and hoping to reconcile with her daughter, Marisa. Dave and Rhonda also carry unresolved family issues, fostering a deeper connection within the group. Amidst personal turmoil, they unite, offering mutual support and resolving to reconnect with family, release past grievances, accept the heartache of goodbyes, and cherish moments with loved ones. Their collective experiences underscore the significance of relationships, whether through blood ties or the cherished companionships that evolve into a surrogate family.

I was drawn to Almost Family by Ann Bancroft because of the similarities between Liz's journey and that of my wife's mother, a San Francisco East Bay native, a die-hard A's fan, and a woman who fought breast cancer to the very end. Bancroft's novel felt personal, and in many ways, I felt like I was reading into some of the emotions of a woman we knew and loved deeply. I liked how the Bay Area came to life in Bancroft's writing and how the interconnectedness of a collection of areas is reflective of the diversity of Liz's, Dave's, and Rhonda's lives. They are united; they are similar, but they are each unique in their individual concerns. This can only be accomplished through great character development, which Bancroft is particularly skilled at. Occasionally the narrative could wander off into the weeds, but, overall, the pacing has the hallmarks of true literary fiction; it is more introspective and a little philosophical, and as a result, I am certain that readers who enjoy intentionally thoughtful work will find pleasure in what Bancroft has crafted. Recommended.