The Antiques by Kris D'Agostino

Antiques store owner George Westfall is dying. He knows it, his wife Ana knows it and so do his three children: Charlie in LA, Josef in New York City and Armie in his parents’ basement. As George passes away and a hurricane ravages through the east coast, George’s family (and numerous other hangers on) converge on the New York city of Hudson to pay their final respects. George has left the family with the following instructions: a party instead of a funeral and the family to sell everything – especially the original ‘lesser’ Magritte that he bought from a painter friend in 1965.

It would be tempting to categorise The Antiques by Kris D’Agostino as simply a dysfunctional family story (although there is nothing wrong with that!) but this novel is ultimately about the healing nature of the family dynamic without being overly sentimental. The Antiques is, at its core, a character study of primarily flawed and ‘larger than life’ characters but somehow D’Agostino finds a way for us to care for them; even the obnoxious Josef. One of the relationships in particular, between Charlie and her ‘difficult’ five year old son Abbott, is especially moving (and occasionally hilarious).

The Antiques takes a little while to find its rhythm as there is a lot of movement in relation to time, location and point of view in the first part of the book. This setup, however, pays off in the latter stages of the novel once the characters merge together and the shifts in point of view highlight the differences in perception between each of the characters.

D’Agostino has been compared to authors such as Jonathon Tropper, Emma Straub and Meg Wolitzer. Based on my personal reading I was most reminded of Tom Perrotta and the Mark Haddon book A Spot of Bother; examples that, like The Antiques, successfully combine humour and drama in a contemporary setting.

Amanda Rayner works as a bookseller at Readings Carlton.