Jennifer Hicks: Reading Between the Lines


5 Books to Read When You’re Missing “Parenthood”

And a bonus playlist!

The Braverman clan sat down to their last meal together last week,  and if (like me) you’re already missing the TV series Parenthood since its finale after six wonderful family-filled seasons, I have a suggestion for you. In fact, I have five.

These books all capture the drama, humour, love, and emotional rawness that is family:

1. This Is Where I Leave You…or anything by Jonathan Tropper

It would be a terrible mistake to go through life thinking that people are the sum total of what you see.

The death of Judd Foxman’s father is the first time the entire family has reunited in years, and the seven days of sitting shiva allows them to explore the complicated and hilarious relationships between parents, siblings and spouses. You may have seen the 2014 film adaptation, but the book is even better.

2. The House We Grew Up In, Lisa Jewell

"I love other people's families," he said. "They always make me feel better about my own.”

Lisa Jewell's story covers the lives of a seemingly idyllic English family over 20 years. Lorelei Bird's attempts to be the perfect mother appear thwarted when she realizes that as adults all of her "birds" have left the nest and rarely return to their beloved family home. Told in flashbacks and from multiple points of view, the tale unfolds so that the reader understands how they got to this point.

4 Books All Children Should Have on Their Shelves

3. A Spool of Blue Thread, Anne Tyler

Just as the home in Parenthood played such a central part in the series, the lovingly hand-crafted house where the Whitshank family resides becomes its own character, hosting four generations until “the filmy-skinned ghosts frolicked and danced on the porch with nobody left to watch.”  This novel is full of imperfect family members, stumbling and bumbling through their relationships. Flashing back and forth between four generations of a Baltimore area family, readers will want to shake some of these characters and hug others, but in the end you'll be glad of the time you spent with them.

4. A Thousand Acres, Jane Smiley

...I had been with my father so constantly for so long that I knew less and less about him with every passing year. Every meaningful image was jumbled together with the countless moments of our daily life defeating my efforts to gain some perspective.

An interesting interpretation of the King Lear story (and honestly, who dished family drama better than William Shakespeare?!), told against the backdrop of Iowa farm life in the late 70s, and narrated by the modern-day fill-in for Lear’s eldest daughter, Goneril. This Pulitzer Prize winning novel was published almost a quarter century ago, but is still fresh and relevant today.

5. The Prince of Tides, Pat Conroy

"My wound is geography. It is also my anchorage, my port of call.”

If you’re a fan of Parenthood, you know that the San Francisco Bay area plays an important role in the story. Pat Conroy’s literature is critically rooted in the lowlands of South Carolina in the same way. The geography is almost a character in and of itself, and the same story would play out completely in a different way, set in a different locale. This tragedy is darker than Parenthood, but the family bonds and dynamics are reminiscent of the series.

6 Books for Your Must-Read List

And because I think the soundtrack was as important to Parenthood as the locale, the characters and the writing, here’s a playlist with eleven of my favourite “Tearjerkers from Parenthood.”

If I Had a Boat, Lyle Lovett

Here, Now, by Andrew Simple

Always You, Ingrid Michelson

Lights, Josh Ritter

Desire, Ryan Adams

Hard Times Come Again No More, Brett Dennen

You Are the Best Thing, Ray LaMontagne

Naked As We Came, Iron & Wine

Embraceable You, Jimmy Scott

Let It Be Me, Ray LaMontagne

Forever Young, by Rhiannon Giddens & Iron & Wine (from the series finale)

Image Source: NBC

Read more from Jennifer Hicks here at on her new culture and literature blog, Reading Between the Lines.