Book Review – Dead in the Family by Charlaine Harris

by Maryse on May 8, 2010 · 11 comments

in Charlaine Harris, My Book Reviews
Dead in the Family: A Sookie Stackhouse Novel
Welllllll…..I dunno. It’s got Eric in it. So that’s good. I love Eric. Any book in the series I will read – and overall, enjoy by default – as long as it’s got Eric in it. Other than that, I was left a little bewildered. The magic…where did it go? I kept wondering, were all the books in the series like this? Did I just not realize it when I first read the series, because I was so new to the genre?

Sookie appears to have lost some emotion. Well not exactly, but when Sookie appeared to have emotion, I never “felt” it. She’s nonchalant about Eric, Bill, and anyone for that matter. She’s quick to muse about her sexual attraction, and how important her friends are to her, but not about truly loving any of them. While it makes sense that Sookie’s emotional distance might be attributed to the trauma she has recently escaped from, I’ve found Sookie, as of the last few books, to be annoyingly unaffected despite some very earnest moments.

Sookie’s thoughts, as usual, are airy and fleeting. Every little detail is described in her daily life, from where somebody went  to eat to the history of the restaurant they ate at. While this helps “set” the atmosphere of where she lives, I found there was too much extraneous detail.

In this book, she is supposedly in a “committed” relationship with Eric. Great right? What I’ve always wanted? So what’s my problem? Unfortunately I don’t know how that came to be. We really didn’t get to see much of how they finally got there. Oh – don’t get me wrong – she’s been on and off with Eric since book 3? 4? (and that’s been a wild ride – I loved the tension). Of course, this is what I’ve been waiting for. However, right up to the second last book, her emotional flip-flopping seemed unresolved. Yet in this one, it’s a given. They’re together and not just because of their “impromptu/political” marriage. They are together.

Eric eventually explains why he was missing in action during the attack on her life (at the time, he too was was being physically restrained).

My initial reaction to Eric’s explanation was bitter disappointment. I’d heard this story before. A vampire more powerful than me made me do it.

A sigh worthy moment:

“While you were with Neave and Lochlan, I suffered with you,” he said, meeting my eyes directly. “I hurt with you. I bled with you – not only because we’re bonded, but because of the love I have for you.”

Another beautiful part from this scene (however the last sentence, while quite “deep”, left me somewhat exasperated. I just can’t seem to relate yet, to Sookie’s relentless emotionally-guarded self):

Finally, something inside me relaxed at the logic of his story. I believed him in my heart, not just in my head.

A red tear fell on my bare shoulder and coursed down. I swept it up with my finger, putting my finger to his lips – offering his pain back to him. I had plenty of my own.

Eric is not his usual self in this one.  He was wonderful, but I was confused. In this one, his heart was always right out there for her to see. He was loving, funny, and even somewhat silly (at one point he has her run and jump into his arms for a wonderfully romantic embrace – sweet…but… Eric did this? Really?).

Again, I kept thinking that the series was missing a book, or a seriously *big* part out of this one. We went from a sexy, demanding, emotionally-guarded Eric to a tender and loving Eric in this book. Emotional, reaching out to Sookie, and always concerned about her well being, (holding her and even crying with her when she had nightmares). He repeatedly asked if she loved him, telling her when he missed her, freaking out when she was in danger…It was the Eric of “Dead to the World”. Loved him, but I almost felt sorry for him, and one must NEVER feel sorry for Eric. That’s just too weird. He’s too strong and powerful for that. And yet, I did. Sookie never really gave him that emotional intensity back.

“I think you know how I feel,” he said in a whisper. “We are bonded. Can you believe I’m not thinking of you while I work? When my eyes open, I think of you, of every part of you.” His fingers got busy, and I gasped. This was direct, even for Eric. “Do you love me?” he asked, his eyes fixing mine.

Her response:

“I love your body. I love what we do together. You make me laugh, and I love that. I like to watch you do anything.”

Huh? He’s fishing for you to finally tell him you love him, after his own recent tear-fest, holding you and easing you from your nightmares, and telling you how he felt about you, and THIS is your answer when he asks for it?

And then they “do it”. Ok. Whatever…*hrmph*

Ok one more favorite Eric moment:

“I love you,” Eric said in a drained voice. “And you are my wife, in the only way that matters to me.”

“Love you, too,” I said, passing on the last half of his closing statement because I didn’t know what it meant.

Oh come onnnnn Sookie!!! Give the guy a break! See!? See why I’m exasperated?? I think I need to step away from the book… lol!! Maybe to some, this is not considered a romance series, but the romantic aspect is undeniable, and I guess I’m still waiting…and hoping for that intensity.

So pretty much, this series starts off with Sookie mostly recovered from the physical damage the fairies did to her in the last book (emotionally, however, is another story). The fae war is over, but has left much damage in it’s wake.

After all the bloodshed, Niall concluded that peace among the fae and safety for humans could be reached only if the fae blocked themselves into their world. Brendan had achieved his ends by his own death. In my worst moment’s, I thought that Niall’s final decision had made the whole war unnecessary.

She misses Claudine but I began feeling uncomfortable when Sookie’s thoughts were mostly on the money Claudine left for her. Amelia moves out of Sookie’s house to deal with her punishment by the witches, and Claude (her gorgeous yet pretentious cousin) moves in with her. He was lonely, and felt the need to be near family. I liked that. It was an unexpected side of Claude, and getting to know him in this book was nice. Sookie also takes in her nephew for a sleep-over, and the three cousins appear to really bond. Sweet moment!

The “Weres” (and essentially all the two-natured) have issues with the government, and protestors. Stuff happens. Protestors protest, and laws are changing…As a result, there is some discord within their pacts.

Sookie is warned that there are fae that have been meeting on her property (and the smell indicates they are not Claude). Considering the fae were supposedly sealed back in their world, their are a few unknown “deserters” that are apparently still interested in Sookie.

Bill, well he’s still sad, and now ill too. Poisoned by fae in the last book, he is struggling to heal, and struggling even more with his will to live. And he still loves Sookie. A sweet moment there, but barely (as Sookie, again, shrugs him off). Which is fine with me, since Eric’s her man, but at some point, any passion from her would have been, I dunno..*something*. But we do get a little air time with Bill, and the results are nice, and something happens that left me slightly distracted, but I guess we’ll see in the next book.

Eric’s story is the best of all. While he is still struggling with the political power struggle of his position, he is suddenly faced with a more pressing issue to deal with. His maker has come back to see him (with a visitor in tow). That whole section is where I finally FELT something. Fear. It was…creepy.

I had a moment to look up at Eric, and I knew my face was asking, “What the hell is going on here?”  But he looked stunned, and helpless. Eric. Helpless. My head was whirling.

I had no clue where it was going, but I was tense the entire time. Eric’s world turns upside down, and while I may have felt sorry for him in regards to Sookie, I was scared for him once his family showed up.

So there’s the summary. There’s more to the story, and the wrap-up is interesting enough, but it felt somewhat “choppy”. In my opinion, too much going on and not enough intensity in any of it. Sometimes, conversations would start (mostly between Sookie and Eric), and it would take me a few seconds to catch up with the flow (or lack of flow) of it. Perhaps a longer book would have helped “better” this glossed-over installment. I LOVE it because of what it is…another installment in the Sookie Stackhouse series…but I want more!

Some new characters, a few scenes with the ever-sarcastic Pam (“You’re my favorite breather“), sweet Sam and even sexy Alcide, but Sookie? Grrrrrr!

As Claude puts it:

It’s an elusive sent. Most vamps would think, ‘She smells good,’ and they’d enjoy being close to you. That would be the extent of it. Once they know you have fairy blood, they can attribute that enjoyment to it.

It’s a good thing she’s got fairy blood in her…I’m just sayin’  ;)

3 stars

Check out the entire series reading order guide right here ——> Charlaine Harris – Southern Vampire Mysteries Reading Order:

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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Jennifer May 8, 2010 at 11:20 AM

I wondered how Sookie would react to being completely tortured and near death, and in some ways I was disappointed that she wasn’t more withdrawn. I think the Sookie we all know and love is probably gone and may take a while to come back. I agree that there wasn’t much spark in Sookie’s narration, but I attributed that to Sookie’s mental healing, she had to focus on the mundane daily life.

I think Eric was worried about Sookie, he has that dang blood bond with her so he felt her despair, plus he does actually love her, so I could see this as a believable reaction he would have to try and pull her back – pushing her with his feelings to force her into feeling. And he is a man and wasn’t fulfilling his woman so that had to eat at his ego (although there was nothing he could do about that) I think of Eric in two ways – the Eric with amnesia who was amazing and the viking Eric – I think this Eric was a balance of the two. And I agree that Eric’s story was the best of all. Fascinating.

I would have liked to have seen a spark between Sookie and Eric and her relishing in his feelings for her. And it would not surprise me if Charlaine lets Eric turn to the strong, brooding, detached vamp he has always been in the next book when Sookie wants more of a lover. Something is being set up for the future and I think it will tear Sookie and Eric apart.

Maryse May 8, 2010 at 11:28 AM

Agreed…the last two books feel like we are being set-up for something big. At least I hope so…

Annie May 8, 2010 at 6:50 PM

Eric crying???? WTF? I have to read this ASAP.

Awesome Review Maryse!!

Maryse May 8, 2010 at 6:57 PM

Yup! Tears I tell you! Tears! *Sigh*…Eric…when I re-read my favorite parts that I had marked for this review, I realized the majority of it was Eric related…LOL!

winnie May 13, 2010 at 2:42 PM

What do u think about Eric’s little brother Alexei. Am I wrong for feeling uncomfortable about this character.

Maryse May 13, 2010 at 3:07 PM

ummmm…tee hee! No comment ;) I have a feeling you’re not done reading. I’d love to hear what you thought of it when you’re done.

winnie May 14, 2010 at 12:40 AM

I finished reading on my third day of getting the book lol. I just think it was kind of out of line for CH to bring someone with such a horrible history into this story. And really for what? There was really no point. I mean she has Elvis, and now this kid. Who’s next? Jesus?
Half of the time I found myself asking where is she goin with this whole thing. At the end of it all I wasn’t very satisfied. Hopefully, like the other blogger said, CH is preparing us for the future.
Team Eric woooo

Lily May 18, 2010 at 2:06 AM

Oh hell, you know I got to throw my two cents in here.

1. Eric who was laughing at Buffy and head over heels for Sookie was tight. And awesome, but I fell in love with the tricky vamp who liked to be a viking and not give a flying bat’s ass what anyone else wanted.

2. Sookie does not get to cop out with the torture thing – look here if she can let Claude move in (she doesn’t even like him and southern manners or not if you don’t like family you invent reasons they can’t move in…) and have her nephew for a sleep over (hello weird, she has met him like once and his dad is okay with him sleeping at the vampire girlfriend who can read minds and smiles like a loon when she’s upset house? I think not. Even I would pay for overnight babysitter. There has to be someone willing to watch the little bugger.)

3. I agree the only emotion I got to feel was fear from Eric’s little brother. What a freaking nightmare. And to think she put her arm around him like a kid. CREEPY.

4. I personally think since the show came out she is not writing the same way she was before. Please CH tell me you are not just writing the books so plain so they won’t cut a bunch of stuff. You seem to only leave a few REALLY good scenes – and they seem a little out of place. Please don’t leave us hanging so the writers of True Blood can get the show to that scene. It is not fair to the one’s who only read the books. I like both, but I like them seperate. Do not attempt to conform to fit the show. I’m begging here.

5. Pam is my fave dead girl. She just kicks ass with her soccer mom that can rip out your bowels look.

6. You will see more ranting from me on my blog about this, I am certain.

Maryse May 18, 2010 at 8:56 AM

I too, felt that her writing has changed. I wondered…

1.) Is she just burned out on the characters? I hope not – I still love the series but the last two books just didn’t *feel* like typical Sookie books…so many random moments, put together, that yes, ended up making a story, but I barely felt emotionally invested like I did in the past (‘cept for the visit from the maker and brother…)

2.) Is she regretting the direction she took for Eric and Sookie in earlier books? I was so curious about this, since they’ve lost that “loving feeling” from earlier, that I researched anything CH had to say about them. I found a comment from a reader, who was at a recent CH signing, and during the question/answer session, she said she wonders why we all love Eric so much. She said Eric is all about Eric and we shouldn’t forget that…well yes, I get that, but wouldn’t Eric be all about Eric’s heart too? And apparently, when he loves, he’s not too bad…or am I missing something? I mean..she *DID* write him in a way that made us eventually love him…how could we feel otherwise?

3.) Is she holding something back because of the show? Or is she holding back because her mood is changing, or her ideas are changing on where the series should go?

I dunno….

cher May 29, 2010 at 12:00 PM

I just finished the book and I really don’t know what to think… I was on the last page and thought “that’s it???”. I believe her writing has changed and she did give up on some characters that I loved throughout the other books. I wasn’t impressed with Sookie in this book at all. I was taken back by Eric’s feelings and her lack of at the same time. Pam was the only character I was once again in love with. I just thought that more would be explained in this book and I thought it lacked any real story..That being said, I know I will read the next one because along with everyone else, I love Eric.My review word would be disappointed..

Suzanne November 3, 2010 at 10:58 PM

Also VERY VERY disappointed. We all love Eric or even Bill. CH better get with the program and stop listening to Allen Ball. Not to mention that Sookie also doesn’t give a care that Bill is 1/2 dead. This makes me dread whatever match up she’s planning for Sookie – probably Sam. Blah! Thumbs down.

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