Book Review – The Secrets of Happy Families

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After reading the first few pages of this book, and learning that Bruce Feiler was a NY Times columnist, I was sad.  I thought I signed up for a book that would not be of much value to me.  As a Christian, attempting to raise my children in an environment that keeps God in the center, I feared that this book would do the opposite.  I was worried as a NY Times writer he would hold a different World view that I do.



You heard me.  I was wrong.  I kept reading.  And reading.  And reading.  I love this book.  Now, it does not talk about God (much) or the Bible.  Instead, Mr. Feiler approaches a number of individuals who are “experts” in many different fields.  He looks inside normal homes and sees how the nuts and bolts hold it together.

This book is based on a quote by Leo Tolstoy in Anna Karenina – “All happy families are alike, each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”  Mr. Feiler realized that there may be a truth to this, that happy families have things in common.  He affirms that the building blocks of happy families are quite similar, how they face challenges and the skills they have to deal with day to day life may hold secrets for the rest of us.

I enjoyed it so much I have been telling my friends much about what I have learned!  My favorite parts were the dinner table suggestions and the morning routine ideas.  I also gained a tremendous amount of help with the chapters on conflict, between siblings and couples.

I did mention there is not much about God in here, however if the Bible is central to your family (like we are trying to make it to ours) it is easy to incorporate these ideas with a Biblical approach.  If God is a main player in your home, by applying these ideas you are not kicking him out – you are just changing the way you operate in your home with Him.

The reason I love the dinner time sections – like Mr. Feiler’s family, most meals involve my trying to talk to Robert while asking the kids to stop quoting movies.  Instead we do not have intelligent conversation around the table.  We value our time at the table, but honestly it wears me out.  So we are going to incorporate some of the ideas that Mr. Feiler has applied in his home, that he learned from a former Marine, turned chef/owner of 9 restaurants in Louisiana and Texas.  Both men spoke of how without some structure the table conversation can be about bodily functions, movies and other babble. 

Overall, I enjoyed the book.  I will say that the chapter on the sex talk was great, but was quite open about offering birth control.  While this does not line up with my plans in my home, I really valued the emphasis on having the talk : early and constantly – that it is, it is not a talk so much as a conversation.  So even this chapter that did not line up perfectly with our values had a great deal to offer me!

I recommend this book – it is a fascinating read.  Mr. Feiler did tons of research talking to many many experts in all areas of the family – and he quotes tons of statistics across the board.

PS – Lesson Learned Re-learned, you cannot judge a book author by it’s cover employer!!  Check this book out!!

NOTE : I was offered a copy of The Secrets of Happy Families by LitFuse.

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