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12 Captivating Family Saga Books Filled With Drama, Mystery, History and More!

Woman's World books editor (and book lover!) shares 12 must-read family sagas — savor them all!

Looking for a book featuring an enthralling plot, complex characters and a dramatic story arc full of heart? Look no further than this extraordinarily popular literary genre: family saga. This reader-favorite genre has been a mainstay in literature for hundreds of years. So what is it about this genre that keeps people coming back for more? And what are some great family sagas to dive into? Keep reading to find the answers and recommendations.

What defines a family saga?

Family sagas are typically fictional dramas that chronicle the lives of several members, and sometimes several generations, of the same family. The plot is intricately layered and explores the family’s legacy over time. Several sub-genres exist beneath the family saga umbrella — from historical fiction to mystery, romance, even comedy — and authors use these sub-genres to drive conflict and intrigue. A few key characteristics frequently found in family sagas: sweeping settings, drama, multifaceted plots, dual timelines and, overall, a thoughtful and poignant reflection of a family’s legacy.

Why is the family saga genre so popular?

Family sagas offer a cathartic escape from our daily lives and allow us to explore our own emotions, feelings, life choices — and family dynamics — through the characters’ journeys. Their multigenerational subject matter also allows readers to reflect on their own lives and family life through a different lens — and this lens can offer comfort, hope and understanding. All in all, this genre provides entertaining company and a reminder that all families are, well, a little complicated.

Here, we’ve rounded up some of our favorite family sagas — both newer and older — that are sure to provide an illuminating escape. Happy reading!

We Are The Brennans by Tracey Lange

we are the brennans by tracey lange (Family books)
Celadon Books

Compelling drama, an eye-opening mystery and shocking twists…this family saga has it all. After causing a car accident, Sunday Brennan moves back to New York from Los Angeles to the family — and fiancé — she left 5 years earlier. Once home, she realizes running away didn’t solve her problems, as the secret she’s been keeping is about to be revealed. Will Sunday be able to face her problems head on, or will she crumble from the weight of all her lies?

What our editors are saying: “I’m a part of a big, boisterous family, so I can never resist a good family saga— and this one had drama in spades!” says Patty Bontekoe, Woman’s World Executive Editor. “I fell in love with the Brennans and their bond, prompting me to get together with my own family!” 

Family Reservations by Liza Palmer

Family Reservations by Liza Palmer (Family books)
Lake Union Publishing

This fast-paced family saga follows Chef Maren Winter, who built a culinary empire in Northern California. She also rules over her three daughters, who all work together to grow the family business. But a New Year’s Eve blow-up opens the door for one of the daughters to step into power instead. What follows is a battle of love, loyalty and strength.

What our editors are saying: “As a total Food Network addict, this fast-paced, witty novel about a family-owned restaurant intrigued me,” says Rebecca Haynes, Woman’s World Deputy Health Director. “It was fun to be immersed in this world, and the family drama had me hooked!”

The Disappearance of Astrid Bricard by Natasha Lester 

The Disappearance of Astrid Bricard by Natasha Lester (Family books)

Set in 1970s New York, this rich, enthralling tale follows American designer Astrid Bricard, who is the talk of the town alongside fellow designer Hawk Jones. Yet Astrid still can’t escape the shadow of her mother, Mizza Bricard, who was once a “muse” for Christian Dior. Then Astrid disappeared. Now, her daughter Blythe must uncover the truth and claim what’s left of the Bricard legacy.

What readers are saying: “Three generations of the Bricard fashion dynasty are given a chance to redefine their legacy. Read this if you like: all the 1970s things, fashion history (especially if you are interested in Dior), complicated mother/daughter relationships, romance that spans years!”

The Blackwoods by Brandy Colbert

The Blackwoods by Brandy Colbert (Family books)

This glamorous sweeping saga features Blossom Blackwood, who first graced the silver screen in 1962. In the decades that follow, Blossom becomes the matriarch of the most famous Black family in Hollywood. But now, in the wake of Blossom’s death, her great granddaughters Hollis and Ardith face pressures that she left behind. Written in all three of their voices, this story details the rich history of one family’s fame and legacy.

What readers are saying: “I absolutely loved this! This heartfelt novel follows Hollywood over generations through the eyes of the Blackwood women. From struggling artists to the Hollywood elite and everything in between, this novel shows the highest highs and lowest lows of what it means to be a star.”

Pineapple Street by Jenny Jackson

Pineapple Street by Jenny Jackson (Family books)
Penguin Books

This vibrant novel by Jenny Jackson gives a look into the lifestyles of the 1%. Set in New York City, the members of the Stockton family are used to the finer things: fancy apartments, expensive educations, exclusive club memberships and more. The story follows sisters Darley and Georgiana Stockton and Sasha, who has married into their well-connected Brooklyn family. What follows is a series of juicy crises, observations about New York’s upper class and sharply funny moments.

What our editors are saying: “I’ve had this book, with its beautiful cover, sitting on my nightstand for too long, and I finally sat down to read it last week,” says Melissa D’Agnese, Woman’s World Senior Editor. “And the Stockton family drama drew me right in. This read was a decadent escape!”

Banyan Moon by Thao Thai

Banyan Moon by Thao Thai (Family books)
Mariner Books

This evocative debut novel follows the heartfelt, heartwrenching family dynamics of three generations of Vietnamese American women. When Ann Tran’s beloved grandmother Minh passes away, she returns home to face her mother, Huong. While there, they learn Minh left them the Banyan House, the manor that was Ann’s childhood home. As the past interweaves with the present, Ann and Huong try to rebuild their relationship.

What readers are saying: “This is a story of strong women and mothers who love and protect their children the best way they know how. For those of you pondering whether or not to read this book, do it. Enjoy!”

Truths I Never Told You by Kelly Rimmer

Truths I Never Told You by Kelly Rimmer (Family books)
Graydon House

An alluring multigenerational tale unfolds in Kelly Rimmer’s Truths I Never Told You. The plot follows Beth Walsh, whose dad has dementia and is moved to a nursing home, leaving her to clear out his house. But when she finds what appears to be a diary written by her mother, whom Beth always believed had died in a car accident when Beth was a toddler, she questions it all. An astonishing and deeply emotional saga.

What readers are saying: “A very beautifully written family saga packed with many mysteries that were carefully uncovered. I enjoyed the read!”

I Am Ayah: The Way Home by Donna Hill

I Am Ayah: The Way Home by Donna Hill (Family books)
Sideways Books

Bestselling author Donna Hill has penned more than 70 rich, emotional stories — and her latest story follows suit. After spending her life running from her past, Alessandra Fleming receives a call that her estranged father is in the hospital. Now, she must return to Sag Harbor, New York, to find answers in her family’s old home. With help from her father’s neighbor, Zach, Alessandra explores her family history to find hope.

What readers are saying: “I absolutely love when a book makes you forget you’re actually reading. This was that and much more! It is an incredible story filled with family history and love.”

Did You Hear About Kitty Karr? by Crystal Smith Paul

Did You Hear About Kitty Karr? by Crystal Smith Paul
Henry Holt & Co

Author Crystal Smith Paul dazzles readers in this page-turner featuring the St. John sisters. The story begins when the sisters inherit a multimillion-dollar estate from famous silver screen icon Kitty Karr Tate after she dies. But soon, Elise St. John discovers Kitty’s journal, and the truth behind her ascent to stardom threatens to expose a web of lies and deep debts. What follows is a story about the powerful impact of family secrets on future generations.

What readers are saying: “I couldn’t put this down. I loved the different storylines and the diversity of perspectives. I learned so much history! I also loved the way the connections between characters slowly unfolded and the ending had me in tears. It was a fantastic historical family saga.”

Varina Palladino’s Jersey Italian Love Story by Terri-Lynne Defino

Varina Palladino’s Jersey Italian Love Story by Terri-Lynne Defino (Family books)
William Morrow

A cast of endearing characters and family drama combine in this bighearted novel set in New Jersey. When widow Varina Palladino’s 92-year-old mother, Sylvia Spini, fears that Varina will be left alone when Sylvia dies, she conspires with her granddaughter, Donatella, to find Varina a man. Now, three generations of Palladinos struggle to find romance in this funny, warm and deeply wise story.

What readers are saying: “I found this book fantastic! Varina Palladino, the title character, is a widowed 70-year-old Italian-American living in New Jersey. She’s a full-time caregiver to her 92-year-old mom and has a collection of kids and grandkids with whom she’s involved with. There’s also some romance, mild intrigue, and a surprising amount of character growth. Oh, and each chapter provides a mini-lesson in Italian-American slang! This was really an entertaining book.”

Pride and Joy by Louisa Onomé

Pride and Joy by Louisa Onomé (Family books)

This heartwarming and hilarious novel written by Louisa Onomé follows a Nigerian Canadian family in the wake of their matriarch’s sudden passing. When the Okafor family’s matriarch, Mama Mary, dies before her 70th birthday party, everyone is taken aback. Except Auntie Nancy, who believes Mama Mary will rise again on Easter. However, Mary’s daughter, Joy, is planning the funeral, much to Nancy’s dismay. What follows is a saga filled with complex family dynamics as the Okafors prepare their hearts for loss, while holding out hope for a miracle.

What our editors are saying: “After a long week, I needed to unwind, and this humorous book enthralled me from the start,” says Carissa Mosness, Woman’s World Assistant Digital Editor. “After I turned the last page, I wanted to reread it again. The memorable cast of characters from this family really stayed with me.”

A Little Ray of Sunshine by Kristan Higgins

A Little Ray of Sunshine by Kristan Higgins (Family books)

This genuine and uplifting novel follows 18-year-old Matthew, who decides to arrange a summer trip to Cape Cod to meet his birth mother, Harlow — without telling his adoptive mother, Monica. When Matthew walks into Harlow’s bookstore, she gets the shock of a lifetime, and Monica panics. Soon, even more twists unfold and the women discover that there’s no limit to a mother’s love.

What our editors are saying: “I was drawn to this book by its breezy, pretty cover, but the story about love and what it means to be a family is what kept me engaged,” says Patty Bontekoe, Woman’s World Executive Editor. “I loved this emotional story, which had me laughing, crying and feeling for both moms. I didn’t want it to end! And I just found out Higgins’ newest book, Look on the Bright Side, (out May 28) features more drama and delight from this lovable family!”

For more book recommendations, click through the links below!

12 Must-Read Historical Romance Novels to Tide You Over Until ‘Bridgerton’ Season 3!

12 Must-Read Books About Books: From Historical Fiction to Romance and More!

11 Heartfelt Books Perfect For Mother’s Day: From Historical Fiction to Humor & More!

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