After a public death, the struggle to create a new family
June 26, 2016

I wore a dead woman’s sweater once. It was black and oversized, with a huge belt and zebra stirrup pants. I didn’t think of the dead woman as being the zebra-pant type. But I never met her; I just married her husband.

-Tracy Barone,


This week’s must-read books
May 22, 2016

Trouble in Trenton, NJ. That’s where the protagonist of Barone’s debut novel — Cheri Matzner — is born in 1962 to an unwed mother and raised by a foster family. Decades later, she’s trying to start a family of her own and is frustrated with her career. She is also still angry at her adoptive parents: a long-dead dad and a living, controlling mother. A coming-of-age novel that asks the question: Can you ever really know your parents? A trip to Jersey without going there.

-Billy Heller,


‘Happy Family’ and new beginnings: Tracy Barone on new novel, reinventing herself
May 5, 2016

If you’re skeptical about the often-repeated assertion that it’s never too late to reinvent yourself, consider the case of Tracy Barone. After a successful career as a Hollywood producer — her credits include “Men in Black,” “Ali” and “Wild Wild West” — Barone, a former playwright, stepped away from the film industry 17 years ago to raise a family and concentrate on her first love, writing.

-Kevin Nance,

13 Books to Give to and Read With Your Mom This Mother’s Day
May 3, 2016

Tracy Barone’s debut novel tells the journey of a woman coming to terms with her own family—the one she was adopted into, the one she came from, and the one she made for herself. Funny and matter of fact, this one is also a preorder must (it’s out May 24).

-Lynsey Eidell and Alexandra Schwartz,


16 Novels By Women Everyone Will Be Talking About in 2016
February 26, 2016

Tracy Barone’s background is in Hollywood, so it’s no wonder that the story in May’s Happy Family is so artfully crafted. Unsurprisingly, family is at the heart of this novel; how protagonist Cheri navigates the ties that bind (or, well, don’t bind) her to them. You’ll find a fantastic character, bold language, and a gutsy story—a recipe for a great book if we’ve ever seen one.

-Meredith Turits,

February 20, 2016

In her debut novel, screenwriter, playwright, and film producer Barone uses a wide lens to capture Cheri Matzner’s life, from a precarious beginning to a confident, peaceful middle age. A novel in four parts, the story begins with a list of significant news items from Aug. 5, 1962, followed by the scene of a teenage mother abandoning her baby shortly after giving birth. Miriam ducks out of the Trenton Family Clinic with her IV line filled with stolen morphine tucked under her dress. The baby is almost forgotten as readers are introduced to the fully, and humorously, characterized supporting players who take responsibility for her. Infant Cheri makes her way to a home where she is deeply loved and desperately wanted (by at least one parent), but the rest is not a happily-ever-after tale. Though Part II skips ahead 40 years, Cheri’s significant experiences, as well as the events that influenced her from childhood through adulthood, are unpacked in the same comprehensive detail as her first weeks of life. The Matzner family story branches out into the fantastic and scandalous, yet the book is rooted in realistic, Everywoman-style struggles. Despite her momentous beginning, adult Cheri’s dealings with career disappointment, relationship failure, and fertility struggles put her on a level with any average 21st-century woman. The novel is never rushed—every character, every setting, and every scene gets its due, painstakingly elaborated on so that the full picture of Cheri’s life and those who made it is clear and complete.

Cinematic in its scope, this novel takes readers on a broad, deep, and poignant journey alongside a tough, admirable woman and the varied characters who populate her life.