Book review: ‘First Came Us’ deals with the nuances of maintaining a family

Author Rachel Cullen, a Pelham resident, brings the nuances of maintaining a family to life in her latest book “First Came Us.” The novel, presented from the points of view of three people in the same family, focuses on what it takes to make a suburban family work.

Social-worker-turned-yogi, mother-of-three Ellie struggles as she faces a hard and intimate decision, while her husband, Yale professor Jack, is confronted with mistakes from his past. Caught up in their own issues, Jack and Ellie fail to realise that sixteen-year-old daughter Sydney has been lying to them.

Cullen fully utilizes dramatic irony in the story, switching perspectives from chapter to chapter, giving the reader the full and messy picture of the Miller family. As the story progresses, the reader’s ability to see the different sides of the story becomes more a curse than a blessing, building the anxiety the reader feels for what is bound to be a difficult exposure of Jack, Ellie and Sydney’s secrets.

Throughout the novel, Cullen manages to maintain the reliability of her characters; even as they make objectively bad decisions, they are understandable in their actions.

As seen in her previous work, Cullen writes about the Westchester area—her previous novel “Only Summer” was set in Rye and “First Came Us” in Westport, maintaining the suburban setting a little further from home. The author’s familiarity with the area comes across in the details of the story, in driving times and settings that make the story feel as though it happened.

“First Came Us” is an enjoyable read that addresses the importance of communication and the selflessness required from all the members of a family.

For more information about the book, visit Rachel Cullen’s website.