Family Game Night and Other Catastrophes by Mary Lambert

Family Game Night and Other Catastrophes by Mary Lambert

Annabelle Balog wants her family to be a little more normal. Normal dads don’t wear old-timey Sherlock Holmes hats. Normal older brothers are actually home every once in a while. Normal little sisters aren’t in danger of being crushed under newspapers. And normal moms are not hoarders.

But Annabelle’s mother is a hoarder, and their house is packed to the brim with junk. There are towers of newspapers, hundreds of empty egg cartons and milk jugs, an entire room full of broken toys and dolls. Nothing can be thrown away, and, as Annabelle’s mother continues to collect and keep everything, there is little room left for anyone else.

There are only two spaces in the entire house separate from all the chaos. Annabelle’s room—which she keeps obsessively neat and free of invading junk, not even allowing herself any mementos. And the dining room, which has been mysteriously locked and closed off to the whole family for years.

The family relies on pretending everything is normal, but when a stack of newspapers falls over on Annabelle’s little sister Leslie, pretending is no longer possible. In a moment of desperation, Leslie reaches out to the worst possible person to come help—their Grandma. As their well-meaning but overbearing grandmother attempts to fix everything, Annabelle struggles to understand how things got to this point, who her mother is as a person, and what their family needs to get through this.

Family Game Night and Other Catastrophes is a fascinating and original story about mental illness and the stigma around it, forgiveness, and family dynamics. While geared to middle grades, readers of all ages will find it is easy to connect to Annabelle—her frustration, her fear, and the love and strength of her family.