an excerpt from

The DNA of Storytelling: Making the Case for Messy Family Books

Tracey Lange on the Complicated, Raw Emotional Chaos of Familial Histories

By Tracey Lange

“Many years ago my husband Fred, primarily a financial news and nonfiction reader, was heading off on a work trip and decided to take along one of my favorite novels of all time, I Know This Much Is True by Wally Lamb. He knew how important the book was to me and decided to finally see what all my hype was about, despite the daunting 897 pages. As soon as his plane landed at his destination I called to ask what he thought of it so far. In a slightly irritated tone, he explained he couldn’t answer that yet because he had to put the book down mid-flight. Otherwise he feared he’d start crying in front of the other passengers, which he preferred not to do. He also asked, with sheer wonder in his voice, why I would seek out—never mind recommend—a book that was so full of heartache.

It’s a fair question. What drives some of us to read books that put us through an emotional wringer? Sure, storytelling is part of our DNA; humans have found educational and entertainment value in stories since cave drawings. But Fred has always questioned why I choose to read and write this kind of story, the kind that causes the reader significant anguish on a character’s behalf. And he’s not alone; many people refrain from such books because the psychological toll is just too high. Yet novels and memoirs about messy, complicated families have only become more popular over time.

I believe this is because stories are about conflict, and our families are often the source of some of the greatest conflict in our lives. What motivates some of us to dive into these often agonizing books is likely the same thing that prompts others to steer clear: they lead us to explore the good, the bad, and the ugly in ourselves and our relationships. And this is painful at times. But, I would argue to Fred, by examining ourselves and our family dynamics we not only avoid repeating painful history, but with greater understanding comes forgiveness, and the opportunity for redemption….”

excerpt from: The DNA of Storytelling: Making the Case for Messy Family Books
Tracey Lange on the Complicated, Raw Emotional Chaos of Familial Histories

By Tracey Lange

August 4, 2021

Free excerpt

This is from one of my unpublished books whose story spans over many decades and cultures. It looks at the more intricate details about everyday moments that go on behind closed doors in order to capture the essence of their lives.

From The Key (c) by Suzy Valtsioti

“Just another day in their life.

Actually, just another day in their lives would be more accurate.

Their lives were housed ‘together’ but they remained ‘separate’. If sharing common space and possessing legal papers that declared a marriage took place makes two people a couple, then you can call them a couple. A noisy couple made up of two rather opposite individuals.

Most of the time they are at each other’s throats. Their sparring is practically continuous, interrupted only by their “moments of quiet”.

Moments of quiet in their home aren’t peaceful or serene.

If you define ‘moments of quiet’ as rather peaceful moments leading to conflict resolution – as moments that allow for one to catch their breath or to calmly think things through – then your idea of ‘moments of quiet’ are not what this couple experience.

Their ‘moments of quiet’ hardly allow for them to approach one another in a calmer state of mind. No.

Their ‘moments of quiet’ are like black clouds looming over their heads threatening to hurl and lash yet another storm like no other.

These quiet moments, when they arrive, cloak their rooms like a weighty veil.

They are both aware of this suffocating pressure change in the air when these moments arise. They have always felt it all these years.

Their ‘moments of quiet’ bore a silence that was tense and threatening. The both of them probably don’t know which is worse, their arguing or the morose silence in between the wars. And that perception is probably one of the few things that these two people had in common.

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the power of a metaphor…