Family Resemblances Summary
In Family Resemblances, Pei writes about different aspects of honesty and different types of relationships in a realistic and believable fashion. His characters speak and act in ways familiar to his readers, conflicted about what secrets are safe to tell, what thoughts to keep hidden, and what course of action seems right. Augusta and Karen both carefully select the information they share with others. Augusta tells Karen only part of the truth about her relationship with Jim but the entire story of her time with Allan. Karen hides the sexual aspect of her relationship with Roger from her parents but manages to let Augusta know about her feelings for George through her actions and behavior. Each allows others to know a controlled truth.
The shifting relationships among the characters also play a large role in the story. Pei explores the subtleties that exist in parent/child, adult, and friend/lover relationships, and how the lines between these can blur at times. From the perspective of age and experience, the relationship between Augusta and Karen should be classified as a parent/child one—at times Karen does feel as if Augusta treats her like a child—but more often tends to fall into the adult relationship category. Augusta obviously trusts Karen enough to tell her things no one else knows. Augusta's relationships with Jerry and Allan fluctuate as well. As different as these men are, at one time each was her lover, each her friend, and each wanted more from her than she felt ready to give, but both remain a part of her life. Through these characters, Pei shows the ambiguity inherent in most relationships.