"Family Pictures" follows the lives of the Eberhardt family from the early 1950s until 1979, giving us a picture of different family members at significant points in their lives. Chapters switch from character to character and from year to year, although most of the focus is given to mother Lainie and daughter Nina. The book is not heavily plotted; instead it is an intense character study.
Father David is an even-tempered psychiatrist and his wife Lainie is an emotional, stay-at-home mom. When the story begins, Lainie and David are happy with their small family: son Mack and daughter Liddie. Then Lainie gives birth to Randall, a beautiful son who is later found to be autistic. Attitudes during the 1950s were harsh and unforgiving toward autism, and the blame for such a handicap was almost always pinned on the mother. Lainie, desperate to prove that she can raise normal children, retaliates by giving birth to three more daughters: Nina, Mary, and Sarah. David copes with his family difficulties by having affairs and by moving out and moving back in with the family, leaving the children both bewildered and bitter. Lainie struggles with her three youngest daughters, insisting that they be happy, well-adjusted, and "normal". In later years, Nina runs away from home, Mack drops out of college and goes to Vietnam, and David and Lainie divorce.
"Family Pictures" explores how one child can have dramatic effects on family members long into adulthood.
This report prepared by E. J. McDonald