This luminous novel follows the story of two half-sisters who are unaware of one another, born into different villages in 18th century Ghana. One will live a life of privilege, marrying into a wealthy English family, while the other sister will be captured as a slave. The novel follows each sister and their descendants through eight generations from Africa to England to the United States and beyond.
Land of Love and Drowning
This novel tells the story of three children—two sisters and their half-brother—who are orphaned in a shipwreck near the Virgin Islands. As these children grow, the story follows them and their descendants through the 1900s. During this time, St. Thomas came into its own as a modern nation, and the Caribbean breathes life into this thoughtful novel.
Saints for All Occasions
J. Courtney Sullivan
J. Courtney Sullivan is always a sure bet for a moving novel about family. Saints for All Occasions follows Nora and Theresa Flynn, two sisters who leave Ireland for the US and live very different lives. Theresa ends up pregnant, and Nora hatches a plan to help her sister without realizing that it will change the shape of their lives. Five decades later, the two estranged sisters, one a nun, the other a grandmother, reunite to confront their choices and their repercussions.
The Old Drift
This enthralling novel, which is set on the banks of the Zambezi River near Victoria Falls, tells the story of three different intertwined families, one white, one brown, one black. It begins in 1904 when Percy M. Clark makes a mistake that will set into motion generations of retribution and revenge among these three families.
The Twelve Tribes of Hattie
When Hattie Shepherd chose to begin a new life in Philadelphia at the tender age of 15, she had no idea what fate had in store for her: an unhappy marriage, the loss of her firstborn twins, and nine more children who grow without really experiencing the love of their mother. Hattie raises them to face the unkind world she experienced as a child in this brutal, yet thought-provoking, novel.
This novel tells the story of generations of the Fein family. Desperate for a job during the Great Depression, Florence Fein leaves New York for a job in Moscow, fully intending to return to the United States one day. But she becomes enmeshed in her new country. As her son and grandson weave between Russia and the United States, both countries will have a lasting effect on this family for good and for ill.
America Is Not the Heart
This story of three generations of women in America, begins with Hero De Vera’s arrival in the United States. Thanks to her uncle, she’s embarking on a new life in the country, trying to put behind the secrets she left in the Philippines. But Hero’s daughter can’t help but wonder what her mother’s skeletons are, and as her children grow, they’re pulled between an American identity and the sins of the past.
The Sparsholt Affair
When David Sparsholt starts at Oxford University, everyone is taken in by his charm and wit. There, he meets Evert Dax, and their friendship will have profound implications on their own lives, as well as that of their sons and sons’ sons. As they move through events such as World War II and beyond, they must take stock of who they are and how the world carries on around them, even if they’re not quite ready for it.
If you’re in the mood for a really immersive read, then diving into multigenerational books about families can be a really good choice. These stories allow you to get to know people and their descendants over the course of decades, helping us understand how time changes each and every one of us. The people we want to become aren’t necessarily the people we are, and generational books do an excellent job helping us understand that gap.
These stories are also excellent immigrant narratives, showcasing how the choice to uproot and start a new life in a country can affect the generations beyond. Regardless of whether the books on this list involve emigration or migration, they all have the running themes of family and acceptance, both of yourself and each other.
Featured Image: Jinny Kwon