“The son did as he was told. All his bloody life, he has done as he has been told. Time to change that, he thinks, grabbing a pen. He doesn’t write that this will be the last time his father stays here. He doesn’t write that he wants to break the father clause. Instead, he writes: Welcome, Dad. Hope you had a good flight.”
A grandfather who lives abroad returns home to visit his adult children. The son is a failure. The daughter is having a baby with the wrong man. Only the grandfather is perfect—at least, according to himself.
But over the course of ten intense days, relationships unfold and painful memories resurface. The grandfather is confronted by his past. The daughter is faced with an impossible choice. The son tries to write himself free. Something has to give. Per a longstanding family agreement, the grandfather has maintained his Swedish residency by coming to stay with his son every six months. Can this clause be renegotiated, or will it chain the family to its past forever?
Through a series of quickly changing perspectives, in The Family Clause Jonas Hassen Khemiri evokes an intimate portrait of a chaotic and perfectly normal family, deeply wounded by the death of a child and the disappearance of a father.
Shortlisted for the National Book Award in Translated Literature
“Exquisitely translated by Alice Menzies, this novel by a significant Swedish author and playwright is deceptively simple . . . What Khemiri achieves is not just an engrossing narrative but the complex portrait of a family that is both identifiable and distinctive, normal and strange . . . [The novel] ranges from the parodic to the sentimental to the tragic without ever hitting a false note. This flexibility of register is essential to a narrative about this web of relations, with its various embedded traumas, delights and absurdities.” —Tabish Khair, The Times Literary Supplement
"Exceptionally well-constructed . . . The tedium of parenthood—as well as the awareness of how upbringing affects children—is handled exceptionally well . . . Khemiri is kind to his characters and allows them the chance to learn from their mistakes and then, in all likelihood, repeat them." —Declan O'Driscoll, Irish Times
"Strung together, engrossing, minute-by-minute passages become layered, and character arcs grows steeper by degrees . . . Depicting his characters’ perceptions of one another, and themselves, Khemiri (Everything I Don't Remember, 2016) points to universal truths: in this and any family, roles change over time, and, with any luck, so do the people in them." —Annie Bostrom, Booklist
“Satisfying . . . Khemiri succeeds at creating an infectious sense of melancholia as the poisonous patriarch is forced to reckon with the truth. In a slow build of quotidian moments, Khemiri constructs a familiarly flawed universe that lays bare what it means to be human.” —Publishers Weekly
“Jonas Hassen Khemiri’s The Family Clause is a bold and remarkable novel—a marvel of form and imagination that is also miraculously full of heart and compassion.” —Dinaw Mengestu, author of All Our Names
"I was drawn into this fascinating story right from the beginning and couldn't let loose for days after I had put down The Family Clause. And now, some weeks later, I know I will never forget the grandfather, the son who is a father, the sister, or the girlfriend. They are here to stay in my mind, like those other fictional characters you never meet in real life, but who you would recognize on the street the minute you saw them. Their personalities are far from perfect, but because of that, you love them all the more for who they are." —Herman Koch, author of The Dinner
"The Family Clause vibrates with rueful humor and quiet wisdom. The more you get to know the characters contained within it, the more you see how tremendously large Jonas Hassen Khemiri's heart must be. His redemptive vision is rare and needed in these dark times." —Joshua Furst, author of Revolutionaries
"A beautiful study of familial need and mess, in which the universal and the particular play footsie with each other. Deft, artful, but above all insightful till it hurts, this is Khemiri’s best yet." —Nikita Lalwani, author of The Village