Family Pictures by Sue Miller

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Family Pictures

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

David and Elaine Eberhardt were willing to “do their duty” and contribute three consumption units to the postwar baby boom: Lydia, Macklin, and Randall. At which point, David would continue his career as a psychiatrist and Elaine would keep house, cheer at Little League games, sew costumes for dance recitals, and perform various supportive functions. The norm was altered, however, when Randall was diagnosed as autistic--a situation which resulted in the birth of Nina, Mary, and Sarah.

These “unexpected guests,” as David Eberhardt is wont to call them, confer an additional element of distinction on the Eberhardt family. The three younger children also introduced an aspect into the family life which ultimately causes David to abandon his family for a period of time. Unfortunately for several members of the group, however, David does not remain separated from his wife and children. In fact, no sooner have they developed a style of life which allows them to function efficiently on their own than he returns, inaugurating a series of events which prove destructive to everyone--particularly Macklin and Nina.

This history of the Eberhardt family covers some forty years, from Imperial America to the post-Vietnam retreat and the subsequent revival. The reader is presented with a perceptive and often painful examination of the postwar American family through the eyes of David, Elaine, Macklin, and Nina--the latter the family “historian.”

The Eberhardt family is atypical in several respects, but the experiences, catastrophes, and insights presented here are applicable to anyone who came of age during the period. This is a story of “baby boomers” and those who produced them. Sue Miller has an ear for realistic dialogue and a...

(The entire section is 407 words.)