Steven Amsterdam’s What The Family Needed offers perspective on how people cope with drama in their lives. In a series of stories that span three decades, each focused on a member of two related families, Amsterdam gives some fantastic help – each person develops the superpower needed at the time: invisibility for the teenager coping with being uprooted by her parents’ divorce, the ability to hear mute patients’ thoughts for the hospice nurse, the at-home father who can fly away, and more. Although Amsterdam plays it straight – he actually has each character practice his or her new skill – the underlying possibilities for everyman are clear. Who wouldn’t want to fly away or be invisible now and then?
Alek, the troubled youngest child, wanders through the action of the others, teasing the reader with the possibility of his superpower, which is revealed in the last chapter -leaving the reader wondering if any of it actually occurred.
Strange but thoughtful read – not for everyone – but Amsterdam kept my attention throughout and piqued my curiosity. What superpower would help you get through the day?