Sarah Payne Stuart grew up in a family of aristocratic lineage whose fortune had long ago been lost. (Among the many family documents cited is a Boston Globe article in which Lowell's bankrupt grandfather is quoted in his will as having left his children their good breeding and Boston heritage.) Stuart's upbringing carried with it a heady sense of privilege and entitlement, but without the money to back it up. This dichotomy - of being both anointed and strapped, of needing to keep up a brave front at all costs, even when members of successive generations of the family (including the author's brother and famous cousin) find themselves locked up in mental wards - forms the heart of this story. An irreverent and clear-sighted meditation on the claustrophobic yet seductive bonds of family, as well as an intimate portrait of a famous man, My First Cousin Once Removed is a wry and haunting story of survival in the midst of instability and dynastic decline.
I picked up this book because of its unique title, and because I got it for only $4. I vaguely remember thinking I had read a good review on this book. The story centers on the gaily life of several generations of Bostonians. Much of it about Bobby Lowell, the Pulitzer Prize poet (I have never heard of) and also the long lived rich, affectionate and snooty aunt Sarah. This book is humorously written sometimes describing an event and suddenly dropping back a generation to explain better or to tell a humorous story. You really have to keep on your toes with all the names and relationships.