A Book Review: Hyphenated Relations by Daniel Maunz

It’s another stop on the TLC Book Tour. This time I revisit a favorite author. Thanks to Daniel Maunz and Lisa at TLC for the opportunity to read Maunz’ second novel.  (I received a free review copy by the author for the tour.  I assure you I was not paid for this review and all opinions, thoughts and rants are completely my own.)

About Hyphenated Relations

• Publisher: Black Rose Writing (May 4, 2023)
• Paperback: 270 pages

Sam Daly is leading a life of quiet isolation following the death of her husband, Mike. She is content to merely put in her eight hours at work each day before heading home to lose herself in a book, only to restart that cycle the following morning. But Sam’s self-imposed cocoon is threatened after her eccentric father-in-law Harold stumbles back into her world to announce that he is getting remarried to the mysterious Marcie Porter, who is burdened by her own complex family history.

The last thing Sam wants is to get involved with Harold’s new endeavor. But after getting wind that Marcie’s four children intend to sabotage the wedding, Sam is reluctantly drawn into a new family drama and all that comes with it, whether it be the development of unexpected alliances or butting heads with ruthless enemies. While navigating these landmines, Sam finds herself struggling to come to terms with the painful past she had been holding away at arm’s length for so long.

Through these trials and tribulations, Sam is also forced to confront the one question that she had sought to avoid since her husband’s passing—whether she is done with the notion of “family” after all.

What I thought…

I have been a fan of Maunz’ since Questions of Perspective.  While that novel might be a little too metaphysical for some (but I still loved it), Hyphenated Relations will be more relatable to more readers.

The novel finds Sam still mourning the loss of her husband, tragically lost on Mother’s Day in a crash that killed her mother-in-law as well. Sam runs to her books for solace and locks out most everyone else. She’s on a kind of cruise control with her job, doing her work but not engaged with any of the staff.

Her father-in-law reintroduces himself into her life. She finds that he has “broken in” to her home and seems to be burglarizing her underwear. (Maunz’ humor is sprinkled throughout the novel.) This reconnection throws Sam into a new family, that of her FiL’s fiancé’s clan.

Talk about dysfunctional.

Maunz presents the lovable Marcie and her hippy dippy ways. She’s a hugger and finds beauty and goodness in all things, even her horrible children. They’re all contemptible, especially Sadie and Colin who seem to never realize the gem they have in a mother.

Needless to say, Sam comes back to life in trying to help her FiL and her new friend Marcie deal with those manipulative siblings. She finds her voice and strength again.

I can’t leave this review without talking more about Maunz’ subtle use of humor.  There’s always a bit to smile at whenever Marcie is on the page, but I loved his description of Jeremy, the clueless son:  “Jeremy was largely raised on sitcoms from the 1990s and thought nothing of just popping in without any sort of warning” (49).    (Memories of Will & Grace and Friends came back to me.)

I highly recommend!

The Food:

Daniel Maunz is a very kind author.  When I reviewed Questions of Perspective., he sent me the cutest cat book mark along with the book for review.   With Hyphenated Relations, he sent the kindest note.   In the note, he mentioned “Had I known you would’ve been on this tour, I would have made a point of including more food references in this book!”     (You can see my review and a horrible cat treat recipe from that review here.)

I will have to say, Daniel, that there was a bit more food in this novel.  Here’s what I spotted:

  • Beer (4)
  • Tomatoes (from Sam’s late husband’s garden) (5)
  • Jack & Coke (12)
  • Bloomin’ Onion (16)
  • Tofu-Sriracha Stir Fry (48)
  • Cherry pie and a chocolate chip cookie (52)
  • Ginger-garlic-turmeric tea (63)

I know I missed some food too, but I got too involved in the storyline.   Toward the end of the book, the family members find themselves in Iceland so I toyed with making something from that cuisine, too.  Instead, I went with a tofu stir fry.

Unfortunately, I did not have time to make the stir fry before this posted but please stay tuned (in a few days) for Tofu-Sriracha Stir Fry with Broccoli.


Thanks, Mr. Maunz, for the free book, the kind note, and the inspiration for a new recipe.  Please let me know when book three comes out!

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