"Malae is like a young Nelson Algren or Richard Wright, one of those writers who can hit with both hands." —Russell Banks
By way of Italy, the Felice family puts down new roots in Southern California, settling into a grand Victorian home and buying a share of the great American Dream. But for their five, first-generation children, an idyllic childhood didn’t quite translate into success and happiness. Rather, the pressures of living up to expectations drove a wide rift through the family.
After decades apart, the five siblings find themselves together again at their ailing mother’s bedside, caught in a deadlocked feud over her hospice care. Into the morass steps Murron Teinetoa, one of their bastard children, who carries an idealistic hope of finally fitting in among her estranged relatives.
In an interweaving narrative, Malae portrays the Felices in their formative years of the fifties; he excavates the personal lives of the siblings in the eighties and nineties; and he follows Murron in the present as she raises her son as a single mother. A powerful and fiery multi-generational story, Our Frail Blood captures the beauty and horror, the strength and fragility, the selfishness and love comprising the threads of familial bonds.
Malae's ambitious second novel follows the rending of the Felice family over half a century as its members spiral apart from each other ideologically, physically, and emotionally. When Richmond and his younger sister, Mary Anna, put their mother into hospice care, their eldest brother Anthony, a right-wing extremist, decries the decision and pits himself against them. Meanwhile, Murron, the abandoned 38-year-old daughter of estranged brother Lazarus, uneasily enters the fray by visiting the grandmother she's never known. After clashes with the overbearing Felices, Murron reluctantly agrees to help Anthony and his younger brother Johnny find her missing father, so that his support might be enlisted in the sibling rivalry. As Murron gets drawn deeper into the raw anger of the Felice clan, her wounds reopen, leading her to rethink the distance she keeps from her own family. But the secrets of the Felice family prove particularly dark and far-reaching, and Murron's vulnerabilities impede her efforts to keep herself and her son unhurt. While the novel's heart is true, the bluster and venom of the Felice siblings make it difficult to stick around for when Malae (What We Are) is at his best: depicting the throbbing pain and joy of an American family.