Books about families fall into two categories: those proclaiming that we’re all doing it wrong (delivered with a French accent or the roar of a tiger mom) and those detailing just how badly the author’s parents messed up.
Although New York Times columnist Bruce Feiler figured there had to be some happy families out there, he knew he wasn’t going to find them in the self-help section. “How-to manuals with their chirpy banalities pile up unread next to our beds,” he writes. “Even our metaphors are outdated. Sandwich generation? Linda wouldn’t dare serve processed luncheon meat to our kids. So what are we, then, just schmears of organic hummus in a vegetarian wrap?”
So Feiler set out to write a parenting/marriage manual without any self-help experts (a few crept in, despite his refreshing intentions).
“The Secrets of Happy Families” opens with a profile of the Starrs, a software engineer and his wife who used a system borrowed from Japanese auto manufacturers to streamline how they and their four children function as a family. Among the results: a kid-designed morning checklist and a weekly meeting to analyze what went well and what didn’t.