Artistic and historical conflict, amid the fragility of human relationships, reign over a family unwittingly brought together for a Thanksgiving weekend.
The Jacoby family unwittingly come together for Thanksgiving in Connecticut. The family is a somewhat dysfunctional one, comprising an eccentric (and eponymous) writer, Jacob Jacoby, his wife Mary, and their five children, one of whom died from cancer years before.
Consecutively the novel takes place over a few days preceding the holiday, with Anna Jacoby, the youngest daughter, returning home after three years, and other members of the family arriving. Flashbacks reveal Jacob’s time in the Vietnam war and how this inspired him to write one of the greatest war novels of the 20th Century; and a boat trip with a mentally ill man and his subsequent suicide that led Anna to take flight.
Also returning for the holiday are the youngest son Sam, who, as a college football hero is the antithesis of everything the literary family hold dear, volatile eldest son Sean. and the Jacoby’s middle daughter, Rachel who, alongside husband Bill, leads a life of American perfection which she through her actions tries to escape.
The over-arching themes of the novel are the differing individuals' approaches and theories to life; death and survivor’s guilt; nature versus religion; and overall private redemption.