Tracey Lange on We Are the Brennans.

I grew up as part of a large, mostly Irish Catholic family—to the tune of ten aunts, seven uncles, and fifty-six first cousins spread across New York and Northern Ireland.

I’m often asked if We Are the Brennans is about my own family, and the answer is not simple. The book is fiction; none of the characters or specific events are based on my family or our history. However, I do come from the Brennans’ world. I grew up as part of a large, mostly Irish Catholic family—to the tune of ten aunts, seven uncles, and fifty-six first cousins spread across New York and Northern Ireland.

Some of my fondest memories are spending holidays and weekends with extended family on Long Island, and summers in Mayobridge, County Down, where my father was born and most of his family still lives to this day. Feeling part of such a big, devoted clan was very special and has served as an anchor for me, through good times and bad. As a result, I’ve always been drawn to stories about family. And the messier the brood, the better.

This novel started with the notion of a woman returning home to her close-knit family after being absent for several years. All sorts of questions presented themselves, such as why she left, what old and new resentments would surface, and how her return would help shed light on the dysfunction in the family as a whole—because even the most loving families have their struggles. In the Brennans’ case, although they would go to the ends of the earth for each other, they still feel the need to hide mistakes and keep secrets from one another. Ultimately, if they are to survive looming threats, both external and internal, they must choose to face the hard truths together.

Like the Brennans, my own family is a loyal bunch who likes to keep our problems to ourselves. And since publication many people have reached out to say they recognize some of their own family dynamics in the story. Although we may not be facing the same sort of high drama the Brennans are, most of us come from families that are made up of rich characters who are well-meaning but full of contradictions. Reading books about other messy families can foster empathy and understanding, not just for ourselves, but also for the people who have, for better or worse, helped shape our lives.

Bio: Born in the Bronx and raised in Manhattan, Tracey Lange comes from a large Irish family with a few secrets of its own. She headed west and graduated from the University of New Mexico before owning and operating a behavioural healthcare company with her husband for fifteen years. While writing her debut novel, We Are the Brennans, she completed the Stanford University online novel writing program. Tracey currently lives in Bend, Oregon, with her husband, two sons and their German Shepherd.

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